The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
We spoke previously about contraction and expansion of consciousness. In simple terms, this refers to attention and awareness. We explained that if consciousness is light, that attention is focused like a flashlight. We use attention to concentrate upon different things, such as a progression of ideas in a lecture or in a conversation with a person.
We explained that awareness is different. It is expansive, like a diffused light, the amplification of cognizance. Awareness spreads out towards different phenomena outside.
We spent a lot of time discussing these principles so as to aid our meditation practice, and building off that understanding from the previous lectures, we are going to talk about a very essential discipline that is practiced within every major world religion, every meditative science. This has to do with the continuity of consciousness.
So while contraction and expansion, attention and awareness are important, it is now even more crucial if we wish to really understand this science of meditation, whether from Sufism or any faith, we have to study the continuum, the maintenance, the constant and consistent implementation of the consciousness in the present moment.
We can be attentive in a given instant, in a specific moment. Perhaps at work, we have a challenging circumstance, a trying situation, a life-threatening ordeal. Some people in the midst of a crisis, such as with 9/11, in which the destruction of the Twin Towers shocked the consciousness of everyone present, not only in the United States, but even people viewing the news across the world. Sometimes those instances can produce a very quick awakening, a spontaneous, constant shock that awakens us for a moment, if but briefly.
Many people approach religion, spirituality, meditation, because they want experience. They may have had a taste of that initial flavor of awakening of consciousness, of profound attention, of expansive awareness, but the problem becomes, can we sustain that state? Can we will it? Can we make it consistent in each moment of our life? Can we be cognizant like that, in a state of alert novelty, throughout an entire day?
Continuity of consciousness, in esoteric Buddhism, is known by the term tantra. It is the continuum, the flow, the constant manifestation of the energy of the consciousness within the meditator. Continuity of attention, of awareness, all day, is known as mindfulness in Eastern traditions. It could be called remembrance, presence, vigilance. The Sufis have many beautiful terms that relate to this essential point. One of the many wonderful Arabic terms that explain the nature of this perception, this continuity, is known as مراقبة muraqaba, which translates as vigilance and also meditation.
What is a vigil? People who commemorate the life of someone who is deceased often perform vigils outside their casket, with family and friends, many times enmeshed and concentrated within deep prayer. They don't sleep physically. Many other traditions, such as the Aztecs, the great warrior dancers, the Jaguar Knights of ancient Mexico, would perform beautiful vigils as a ceremony in remembrance of divinity. And likewise, the Sufis, many masters of that tradition would often fast, but also not sleep for prolonged periods of time. I believe Prophet Muhammad was well-known for this. He often stated and many times, referenced in the Qur’an, "It is best to lose sleep over prayer."
More importantly for us, we have to learn to be awake all the time as a consciousness, as an Essence, as a soul. It means that we have to be attentive and aware at all times.
But of course, in the beginning this is very difficult. For those of you who have perhaps practiced a physical vigil, it can be very difficult. Personally, I have done this in the past and often have spent nights deep in prayer, meditating, seeking illumination, especially in the morning hours. Waking up early, but also waking up throughout the night to perform vigil, introspecting, meditating, asking for guidance. Because if we are attentive in our consciousness, not only just one moment, but throughout our entire existence, we deepen our state. We deepen our connection. We augment our remembrance with the divine. It is even stated in one of the surahs of the Qur’an, "the recitation at dawn,” how great it is, for it “is ever witnessed” by the angels, by the divine. For how do you not know that “your Lord shall resurrect you in a praiseworthy station?" (Qur’an 17:78-79)
This has to do with really deepening our practice, because it is not enough to be attentive just for one instant in our life. We have to learn to develop consciousness, its attention and its awareness, but all the time. Otherwise, we are not going to have much depth. People who learn to have insight for a moment, who state that they have a spiritual awakening, but who do not sustain those states, eventually become swallowed by life. They are not practical. There are many philosophies and groups that teach you that awakening is just momentary. But in reality, there are levels and levels upon awakening, of presence with the Being. Heights upon heights.
So we have to be intentional. It is not enough just to have one moment of clarity. We need clarity in every instant of our existence. We have to sustain our attention and awareness with intention, with will. So people often talk about feeling a presence, an awakening, but they describe it as something fleeting. It means that they are not awakened, but they are asleep. They had a shock, perhaps a divine moment, but then the mind intervened, and now they are back again in a state of slumber, psychologically speaking. So while we can have a profound moment of wisdom, it does not mean that the entirety and totality of our life is that.
Where is our center of gravity? Where does our attention, our awareness go? And more importantly: for how long?
All religions teach the need to awaken, yet, they were never explicit in their methods. So they gave clues, but not all of the techniques that lead to that state and its diverse qualities. Every religion has a kindergarten, an exoteric doctrine, a public school, a beginning level. In Sufism, this is Shariah. It is ethics. We learn to be ethical when we are awake. If we are asleep at the wheel of our car, psychologically speaking, we cannot in any way protect our spirituality, because if we are unconscious, we make mistakes. We act upon nafs, egos, desires.
We have to learn to observe ourselves, to do that all day, to be awake, to see what is new inside. But at the same time, we need to be aware of our surroundings. So one of the points we wished to have left you with in our former lecture is that external events and our understanding of their relationship to internal states is how we arrive at comprehension of ourselves, comprehension of the ego. So that we are no longer asleep. So that we are not dozing off, not paying attention to where we are at and what we are doing―thinking of other things, of our fiancé, our friend, our wife, our partner, our family, and not knowing where we are at or what we are doing. So this is vigilance―to not sleep.
When we lose our attention, we don't really have consciousness of the causes of our own psychological states. We can be angry at a person and not know why. This is fundamentally wrong. We need to know everything: the reasons why we exist and why we act the way we do.
This is why in the beginning levels of religion, of Sufism, we work with ethics. We learn to curtail negative thinking, negative feeling, and negative actions within ourselves and in our daily life, all the time. It is not enough to be chaste for a day and to be impure the rest of our existence. Meditation does not work that way. It requires a complete introversion of our consciousness―to not blame the external world, but the look inside, to have presence within the body, to know that we are here, to know what is happening, to know why we are irritated or upset, depressed, morbid, doubtful, lustful. We have to understand our relationship to the world and vice versa, and so we have to ask ourselves, are we really here, and how do we know?
Here is a test for you. When you go to sleep at night, are you awake in your dreams, or do you see nothing? If eight hours pass and you don't know anything, it means that we are profoundly unconscious in our physical life, as we have explained in the lecture The Present Moment, because conscious awakening, if it is continuous, it manifests in our sleep, physically, so that the consciousness, which is trained, which is active, is aware and awake and intelligent and profoundly luminous in the dream world. We stop dreaming. We see those dimensions for what they are, and we can gain even more knowledge about how to change.
And so there are very distinct levels of presence, that flavor of remembrance. I am sure all of us had had a moment in which we forgot something very important, perhaps related with work, and suddenly we have the insight. We remember. We have a shock in our attention. We see something new. We have a clarity and a crispness that is distinct. It is pristine. That is a simple allegory for presence of being, remembrance of our state. It is the absence of distraction. It is the absence of the ego, but a profound presence in our own awareness, which is maintained.
These levels of presence and even absence are mapped in different ways by different traditions. In Buddhism, you have nine stages of meditative concentration or calm abiding. If you want to know more about that very famous glyph within every Tibetan Buddhist monastery, you can study Meditation Essentials on gnosticteachings.org, or our lecture on Calm Abiding: The Stages of Serenity and our course on Gnostic Meditation.
In Judeo-Christianity, you have the Tree of Life, which documents different levels of presence, of understanding, of consciousness. Within Sufism, this marvelous tree of being correlates directly with the states and stations of the esoteric path. All of these are tools. They can help us understand where we are at in our development.
So, how present are we throughout the day, or even when we sit to practice meditation? On a simple level, we can be present for a few moments, remembering our objective during a certain session. We are concentrating on a stone, simply viewing it and not thinking of other things. We are observing the fact of that rock in front of us, and if our mind starts to think or get distracted, we don't repress. We don't justify. We don't get carried along with that associative chain of thought. We simply return to observation. But if we do forget, we get distracted, we start thinking and daydreaming of other things. It means that we are absent. We are physically in front of this rock, seated in an asana, a posture, but our mind is traveling very far away.
This has to change. We forget ourselves more often than we remember ourselves in the beginning. This change is through discipline: remembering the Being, alert novelty, remembering the presence of the Self, the Innermost, observing our defects.
So beginners struggle often to remember their Being, the focus of their practice. Their center of gravity is in the ego, not the consciousness. Masters of meditation are different. Their center of gravity is in the consciousness. It is in the Being even, but this is a gradual development. They have presence or continuity of attention and awareness at all times, even when the physical body is asleep. They are awakened citizens in the internal planes.
We get to that point through consistency in our practices, which is why Abu-I Husayn al-Nuri stated:
“For twenty years I have been finding and losing―when I have found my Lord, I have lost my heart, and when I have found my heart, I have lost my Lord.” ―Abu-l Husayn al-Nuri
If we remember the Being, we forget that we are the ego. Our consciousness shifts. There is a division of attention there. We are the Essence that is free. But if we invest our energy into desire, info nafs, into ego, we forget our Being. We lose our Lord, because we are concentrated on our own egotistical heart.
The Definition of Absence
"Each moment is a golden child of Gnosis" says Samael Aun Weor. "Nothing in life is ever static or dull." However, if we are not vigilant, continuously applying effort to be here and now, we do not recognize the novelty of each instant, each moment.
This is the qualifying characteristic of whether or not we are doing this right. We have to see life in a new way, all the time. If it is repetitive and dull, if we are lax in our attention, if we are ambiguous, vaporous in our awareness, misty, clouded, it means that we are asleep. We need clarity. We need crispness, but this is only refined through application. And when we forget to do the work, we have to remember, bring ourselves back. Part of that is because of our Being pushing us inside, but oftentimes we don't know what is going on around us or even within us.
This is a profound absence of consciousness.
Al-Qushayri, the writer of Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism, stated something very interesting:
“Absence is the heart’s absence from knowledge of what is going on in ordinary human affairs, due to the absorption of the senses in something else that is influencing them. The heart may be made absent from its sense of itself and others by the influence of remembering eternal reward or of thinking about eternal punishment.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Too often people project their mind on to life. We don't really see the reality of things, if we are honest, if we are really analyzing ourselves and being critical, not from a sense of morbidity or doubt, but from seeking to know the truth of our life. So this is our psychological state. We often project our fears, our hatred, our preoccupations, our ideologies, our politics, upon the world, upon others. We often identify with externals, but really don't see any internal cause for anything that happens in the world. Many times people think that presence has to do with perceiving correspondences within our surroundings. Sometimes people look to find numbers that repeat, coincidences, things that seem rather supernormal, but I like to relate to you a statement by Samael Aun Weor in his Revolution of the Dialectic about the need to have a receptive mind, to not project our beliefs unto what we see, to be present.
“If you are eating, eat; if you are getting dressed, get dressed, and if you are walking on the street, walk, walk, walk, but do not think about anything else. Do only what you are doing. Do not run away from the facts; do not fill them with so many meanings, symbols, sermons and warnings. Live them without allegories. Live them with a receptive mind from moment to moment.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
We have to be present. That continuity must be maintained always.
So the term absence is very dynamic within Arabic and Sufi mysticism. For most people, absence is our daily state. We are inattentive or unaware of our psychological states and the external environment in which we are. However, there is a type of spiritual absence, but I invite you to reflect deeply on this and not get caught up in the terminology. It is something different than what we commonly associate with absence, as if no one is home. You know, we say that a person is not attentive or is kind of lost, that “There is no lights on at home.” There is no one there. There is no one conscious or present in front of us.
There is a type of spiritual absence. It can refer to a type of profound absorption, internally concentrated and connected with divinity, so much that the initiate seems unaware of what is happening outside of oneself. This type of spiritual absence is an advanced state amongst masters like Samael Aun Weor.
I'll give you an example. He knew how to leave his body at will. He could be talking to a person physically, and yet he could close his eyes and leave his physicality behind and enter the internal dimensions, intentionally, at any time. Other people could be talking to him, but he would be in samadhi. His consciousness was so focused on the internal worlds, his center of gravity was in the internal worlds, and that it was difficult for him to be present in the body. Now, most of us we struggle to be aware of our physical body in the first place and even our environment. Meanwhile, we lack cognizance of pretty much anything. Beginners also do not know. We do not know how to enter the astral world, the internal worlds, the heavens of the Tree of Life, at will.
Meanwhile Samael Aun Weor and many prophets like Mohammed, Krishna, Moses, Buddha etc., are awakened internally. Samael Aun Weor had to exert effort to be in the physical body, because his intelligence was focused, his center of gravity was focused in the heights of the Tree of Life, so otherwise he was absent here, physically, due to his absorption.
We can relate a few more excerpts about this from The Principles of Sufism.
“For instance, it is said that Rabi bin Khaytham was going to visit Ibn Masud when he passed by the shop of a blacksmith and saw hot iron in the forge. He lost consciousness and did not come to himself until the next day. Having awakened, he was asked about what happened, and said, ‘Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind.’ This is an absence that exceeded its bounds and became a faint.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these are stories. These are principles the Sufis spoke in a very allegorical way, which people read literally. If they want to, that is fine, but more profoundly in relation to the states and stations of the esoteric path, this has to do with an absence of the body and presence in the internal planes.
So this presence is when we have experiences about the realities of heaven and hell, the Tree of Life, and its shadow, the Tree of زقوم Zaqqum, the hell realms, the infra-dimensions. And when we learn to really walk this path, we have to face many entities that belong to what the Qur’an refers to as the left-hand, the path of demons, sorcerers, black magicians, unbelievers. The term unbeliever in Arabic is كافر Al-Kafir or the الكافرون Al-Kafirun, the unbelievers (plural).
So what is this term mean? There is a surah in the Qur’an called الكهف Al-Kahf, which is the Cave, كهف Kahf, where the unbelievers, الكافرون al-Kafirun, dwell within the caves of the Earth, in the infra-conscious dimensions, which we access in dreams or in meditation―if we are pulled in that direction based on our level of being. Because some people have nightmares, very disturbing dreams, and that is a reality. That is hell. It is not a made-up illusion. It has a real existence, but of course, it is inferior in relation to the multi-dimensionality of existence.
So the people of the fire are those كافرون kafirun, unbelievers, who are not only outside, but inside. Our own egos do not believe in divinity. They fight against us when we want to be chaste, when we want to meditate, to concentrate. So that war against the unbelievers is inside our own defects.
So that is an example of a type of absorption in which something physical reminds one of a profound principle, internally.
"Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
For those of us who have had experiences of these infra- conscious realms, we can speak with clarity that these are really profound states of suffering, and that we seek to avoid in our work―to confront and to change, so that we don't go to those states permanently. But things can remind us, give us remembrance, give us a shock, so that we forget even what is around us― even introspect inside. In a sense, that is a type of absence, physically, but a presence within our consciousness, a remembrance.
There is also a statement in this quote that is interesting to analyze:
“It is also told that a fire broke out in the house of Ali ibn Husayn while he was in prostration, but he did not turn away from his prayer. When asked about what had happened, he said, “The remembrance of hellfire protected me from that fire.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again, these are psychological truths. They are not necessarily literal stories where, because he was praying, his house didn't catch fire, because he was remembering hellfire. That metaphor, that symbol, that allegory, for our purposes, has to do with the fact that if we are remembering our Being, we will not get hurt physically. We will face dangers, but we will be protected.This is something we verify through presence, through awakening, through faith, through knowing. It is not a belief. We know the source of our protection from experience. Divinity is the Mighty, the Wise, says the Qur’an, but of course, we have to remember who He is, what the Innermost is.
The Causes of Absence
Absence and presence have different causes that we have to become attuned to, to understand, and even to manipulate at will. Al-Qushayri states:
“Sometimes absence from one’s senses may be brought on by the Truth’s disclosure of an inner meaning. Those who experience this are differentiated according to their states.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So sometimes, we can receive profound insight into a problem, an experience of a dream we had in the morning, or a realization that emerges seemingly from nowhere, whereby we feel a shock of conscious understanding. We become internally absorbed, in that our external circumstances do not really influence our attention or awareness. We are present within, but absent from the cares of the world.
While Sufism might seem to present these terms, absence and presence, as opposites, they in truth represent dynamic qualities, principles with multiple layers of meaning. So what are these degrees or differentiations of states according to Al-Qushayri? We have to remember that there are three levels of meditative science: introductory, intermediate, and advanced, or in Arabic: شريعة Shariah, طريفة Tariqah, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah. Or: ethics, the law, Shariah; the path of meditation daily, which is Tariqah; and the truth and knowledge we gain from experience of reality is Haqiqah (the truth) and Marifah (knowledge, or in Greek, γνῶσις Gnosis, or in Hebrew, דעת Da’ath). They all reference the same thing.
So we have to learn where our center of gravity is in our states of presence. In the beginning levels, it is sporadic. We forget ourselves more than we remember ourselves. In the intermediate paths, we are learning to remember ourselves more. And in the highest stages of wisdom, one does not forget the Being at all.
So we can fluctuate in our meditation practice in a given session through all of these states, from one moment to the next, but a master has their full development in the knowledge and truth of their Being.
We have to begin where we are, and many people have experiences, even though they are temporary, are so profound, that they place them on a spiritual path. For example, you have many initiates of the White Lodge who were once very poor people, had negative character, and were suffering a lot. Because they had a transformative experience, they left behind a life of materialism and entered a life of spirituality. This is allegorized in every tradition, whether from Milarepa in Buddhism, St. Paul of Tarsus in Christianity, and in this example in Sufism, we have the Master Al-Haddad. Let us read an excerpt about him:
“It is well known that the state of Abu Hafs al-Nishapuri al-Haddad (the Blacksmith) began with his leaving his trade. He was in his shop when a reciter of the Qur’an chanted a verse, and an influence came over his heart that made Abu Hafs lose awareness of his senses. He put his hand into the fire and drew out the hot iron. One of his students saw this and exclaimed, ‘Master, what is this?’ Abu Hafs looked at what had manifested through him, abandoned his trade, and left his shop.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is allegorical wisdom. The Sufi language is Kabbalistic. Many people are like this blacksmith. Many of us identify with materialism. But it is a recitation of the Qur’an that opened Al-Haddad's eyes. It is interesting that even names in Arabic have a lot of meaning. Haddad resembles Al-Haddid, which is a surah in the Qur’an known as “The Iron.” Interesting that a blacksmith has the name iron, or a name resembling that word.
Let us read a verse from the Qur’an that relates to this principle. It is from Surah Al-Hadid, The Iron, verse 25:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” ―Qur’an 57:25
The language of the Qur’an is Kabbalah and alchemy. It is symbolism. There are verses of literal meaning and there are verses of symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical, conscious, symbolic meaning.
A balance represents equanimity, serenity, tranquility, the scales of inner peace. Iron is a symbol of willpower, spiritual force, concentration. Haddad, the blacksmith, was so absorbed by the mysticism of the Qur’an that he put his hand on a hot iron and didn't realize it. This is implying that, as with many of the Sufi stories, that he was in this case physically not hurt, but this is a symbol how the fire and heat of lust cannot harm us if we are present with the Being. Lust, ego, nafs, desires, cannot affect the person who is present with God. So in this example, Al-Haddad left his shop. He left behind a life of materialism and became an initiate of esoteric Islam.
So with training we can learn to be absent from lust and present with chastity. These are psychological states, and in the beginning we are often filled and afflicted with desires, and many students write to us complaining and suffering a lot: how do I overcome my egos, my defects, my desires, because we have so much of it? We have to learn to be like Al-Haddad.
Remember your Being. Remember the message of the divinities, such as through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, the sutras, the tantras, the writings of Samael Aun Weor. Remember those teachings and practice them to the best of your ability, so that with presence of Being, you learn to even approach the sexual act, your marriage if you are married, the creative energy, and not to be burned by that force, to not be hurt by it. Instead, we transform it and we create the soul.
The Definition of Presence
So let us talk about the definition of presence. This is awareness. The Arabic word for awareness is muhadarah, which is where you get words like presence, حضور hudur. When we say that someone is present, it implies that we are attentive, listening, apprehending the nature or meaning of phenomena.
So the mind needs to be in a state of receptivity, passivity, and the consciousness needs to be active, intentionally looking. If you are not intentionally perceiving your existence, if not providing effort in that regard, if we are not consistently manifesting our cognizance in accordance with the needs of each circumstance of life, it means that we are not awake.
We are in the physical world―in Kabbalah, Malkuth, the physical body―and usually we are not even aware of our physical body itself. As we stated previously, we often forget our breathing. Sometimes we get into an argument or we are angry. We are panicking. We are breathing really fast. We are not even aware of this process. If you control your breath, you control your mind. You control your body. This is a basic fundamental practice within Sufism: to control the breath, to be grounded in where you are at. So if you forget what is happening to you, just breathe, relax, become concentrated in yourself. This is a kindergarten practice, but it is the foundation of everything else.
So let us remember ourselves and our body. Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us not be distracted to the reality of our daily life.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“As for presence, it means that one is present with the Real, because if one is absent from creation one is present with the Real. [The term] implies that [the state] resembles being [physically] present: the remembrance of the Real captures one’s heart, and one is present within one’s heart before the Lord Most High.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What does it mean to be absent from creation but present with the real? Many students often ask what it means to have presence, to be in remembrance of the presence of divinity.
Examine your conduct. Examine your behaviors. Examine your mental states. Do you act out of benefit for others, with compassion, with equanimity, even when you are being insulted? Do you respond with kindness to the person who has betrayed you? Do you have patience for those who afflict you and hurt your pride? Do you give to your neighbor even though it hurts? Do you forgive the person who betrays you? Who has walked away from your most generous actions? Who doesn't appreciate your best efforts?
Our behavior shows us our level of being. Are we acting with divine principles, or are we reacting to life out of pain in order to produce more pain?
We have to be in the world, but not of it. Be present. Respond to life, but don't react. What does this mean? In a moment, we are afflicted with rage. We are angry. Someone betrayed us, did something very hurtful. Our pride is seeking to express in our words: sarcasm, hatred, wrath. We have to learn how to respond to a situation, but not with desire. So while we previously stated it is important and even necessary to be patient in those circumstances, in challenging ordeals, we always have to respond in some way, with presence of some kind.
Life always demands a response. We cannot live in a bubble and think that we can avoid the problems of existence. The reality is that we need to intelligently deal with everything, with cognizance. You have to do it by being present of your behavior. First, physically, and then internally.
What does your mind want to do in this situation, even if you don't voice what you are really feeling? Our invisible behaviors show us our level of being. What do we secretly want to do? Do we want revenge? Do we want vindication? Do we want the world to embrace us as a hero, even when we are not? When we are wrong?
We have to examine our internal qualities, and when you follow your conscience, knowing the right thing and actually doing it, we learn to end problems. They cease. They evaporate. The real problem is our attitude, our mind, our identification with life, that feeling of “This person really harmed me and I need to get revenge.” We are identifying in those instances. Our sense of self is invested in the problem and it is the problem.
So, don't invest your energy in that, because that energy needs to be conserved and used for the Being. Without energy, we cannot be present. We cannot be awake, even physically. If you don't sleep enough, if you don't have enough vital energy, you can't pay attention. You will nod off. The same with our spirituality. Examine your behavior: how we behave, and think, and act, and feel, and how we exert energy. Where we direct our attention, we spend energy. So, don't invest it in external things. To know divine qualities, we have to really renounce egotistical qualities in ourselves.
These profound states of being that everybody wants are found here and now. They are not in some far distant future. The presence of God is found by doing what is right in your heart―not out of vindication or shame or pride or malice, but for the benefit of the other person, even when they are wrong… especially so. This is Shariah, the basics, the foundation of religion. If we don't do this, we cannot meditate. In fact, we will be wasting our time.
This is why Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī stated the following:
"The key to success in worship lies in meditative reflection (fikrat)…whoever persists in such reflection in the heart will behold the invisible realm in the spirit. Whoever contemplates God through keeping watch over the thoughts which pass through his heart will be exalted by God in all of his outward deeds." ―Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī in ‘Aṭṭār: Tadhkirat, 154-155
Therefore contemplate yourself, for as the Sufis state, "He who knows himself knows his Lord."
Presence with God
The presence of God, the Being, has degrees. This is why we study the Tree of Life. It is a map of levels of being. Let us read the wisdom of Al-Qushayri:
“Presence with God, is to the degree of absence from oneself and the world. When it is said that so- and-so is “present,” it means that he is present in his heart with his Lord, not unconscious of Him and not distracted, in continuous recollection of Him. In that state, and according to his degree, the Truth reveals to him the spiritual meanings and secrets for which he has been chosen.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Let's examine this glyph of the Tree of Life and this statement by Al-Qushayri by asking a few questions.
How present are we in the body?
Are we aware of energy circulating and flowing in us?
Do we sense our emotions? Do we have control over what we feel, our mood, our sentiments?
Is our mind calm, or is it racing with thoughts, associations, ideas, projects, plans, day dreams, fantasies, commentaries, internal chatter?
This is mapped out on the Tree of Life, this dynamic. The lower four סְפִירוֹת sephiroth or spheres of this glyph on the right represent:
Most people who approach meditation don't even get past the body. We are usually so unaware of our body throughout the day that if one sits to practice, even if very sincere, to go inside, to introspect―the body is agitated. We have an itch. The arm wants to move. There is no control. It is impossible to relax.
Ethics are so important because the physical body must be at peace, and if we are engaging in negative behaviors all day, we are agitating our body. It becomes tense. If we are angry, we clench our fists and our teeth (some people, perhaps). We all have our tendencies, and if we don't know how to relax the body, we cannot do anything. So this is the beginning. After adopting a posture, we relax. We let the body sit. We don't move. Let it be. Let it rest.
In order to aid in this process, we work with energy: Yesod, the foundation of our spirituality. יְסוֹד Yesod in Hebrew means “foundation.” It is to work with the sexual creative energy, and within Sufism, when we work with breath, as in with any tradition, we are circulating that vital force throughout our body, our heart, and our mind. That energy helps us to relax. Deep breathing helps us to calm, helps to be still.
So after adopting a posture, are we really present with the energies of the Being through our breath, through our work, through our pranayamas, our mantras, our transmutation exercises?
As we are examining ourselves, is our mood calm?
We have to suspend emotions and to enact superior emotions through prayer. We have to pray sincerely for divinity to help us. This is not found in some formula or memorizing a complicated prayer. You can do that, and it's very beautiful and wonderful if you can, but more importantly, prayer is sincere and effective when we are genuine―not by mechanically reciting 10,000 Hail Mary’s or reciting Al-Fatihah, the opening of the Qur’an, mechanically, repetitively, without knowing its meaning.
We also have to suspend thought. Don't let the mind dictate to you your life. But this doesn't mean that we repress what we see. We have to comprehend our mind, so that it naturally, by looking at it and not investing our selves into it, it starts to settle on its own, like the waves of a lake that cease its turbulence when we no longer thrash against the waters, so to speak, with negative behavior.
This is all preliminary. When the lower four sephiroth are calm, we can learn to concentrate with willpower, with concentration. This is תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, which means “beauty,” or in Arabic, إحسان Ihsan, “beautiful action.” It is the source of all beauty and action within our very being.
Without willpower, guided by Geburah, our consciousness, our conscience, we can't affect anything. גְּבוּרָה Geburah in Hebrew means “judgment.” It is our intuition. It is knowing what is right and wrong, even if the mind does not understand.
The thread of that awareness is very subtle in us, very profound, and if we are all listening to this type of lecture or studies, it is because we're following our conscience, which is the voice of our inner Being, חֶסֶד Chesed: “mercy” in Hebrew. Or الرحيم Al-Rahim, as we state in the opening of every surah, except surah 9, in the Qur’an:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
“In the name of Allah (the Being), the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Mercy is Chesed. It is the Spirit. It is رو Ruh in Arabic but רוּחַ Ruach in Hebrew―the same meaning.
We have to follow our inner judgment, to know what is right and wrong from our heart. And as we learn to connect internally by suspending our body, relaxing our body, and calming our senses, the energies, suspending our emotions, withdrawing from thought and concentrating upon our inner intelligence, we learn to follow and understand the voice of judgment in ourselves, with clarity. This is why meditation is essential, to withdraw from the world internally and not to be caught up in the mind or negative emotions or lustful sensations, because they are all distractions.
So judgment in Arabic is دين Din, relating to Geburah, the sign of Mars, astrologically when you related it to this tree [of life]. The metal is iron, so going back to the study of the Iron Surah, verse 25, we can unpack this even further:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.” ―Qur’an 57:25
So what is that clear evidence? It is internal experiences in your meditations, and when you are in the dream world, the astral plane, Hod. So the scriptures all emanated from the internal worlds, from the divine, from the higher sephiroth of this Tree, and it is the force of balance, because justice is the scale of balance―how you balance the deeds of your life with intelligence, which is above, בִּינָה Binah in Hebrew. It is “understanding.” It is a primordial root intelligence that is beyond matter and materiality and energy, but which is the cognizance of the most high aspects of divinity.
We have to use our balance, our judgment in how to live our life with willpower, with iron. Willpower can relate to Tiphereth, the human soul, which is the source of the most beautiful actions, as we stated.
Balance, justice, genuine religion, is a state of meditation, whereby we evaluate the contents of our mind with the scale of equanimity and the iron of concentration.
If you think of iron, it is a metal that is very solid. Is our concentration like that, or do we forget what we are doing when we sit to practice? Let us develop ourselves. Let us get serious. Let us actually develop ourselves consistently. We learn to support this teaching, the scripture, and the unseen messengers when we awaken internally. At that time, no longer are those masters invisible to us, but visible within our experiences.
The Dynamics of Absence and Presence
Absence and presence are also flexible terms amongst the Sufis. We are going to build off this explanation by reciting some quotes here. This is from Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery, the Persian manual of Sufism that is very well renown amongst Sufi circles. Samael Aun Weor, we have to remember, said that the best of Sufism comes from Persia. So this is a very valuable text to study.
“These terms, although apparently opposed to each other, express the same meaning from different points of view. “Presence” is “presence of the heart,” as proof of intuitive faith (yaqin), so that what is hidden from it has the same force as what is visible to it.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
We talked previously about certainty, اليقين Al-Yaqin. We arrive at certainty when we have inner experiences in meditation, in visions, in astral projections.
We have to become totally absent to the ego. We have to escape its conditions so that we can really see. The key is relaxation. Suspend your senses. Work with energy to empower your consciousness. Concentrate and visualize with your perception or imagination, otherwise known as insight, firasah in Sufism.
“‘Absence’” is ‘absence of the heart from all things except God’ to such an extent that it becomes absent from itself and absent even from its absence, so that it no longer regards itself; and the sign of the state is withdrawal from all formal authority, as when a prophet is divinely preserved from what is unlawful. Accordingly, absence from one’s self is presence with God, and vice versa.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So on those highest samadhis, mapped by the Tree of Life, we have no longer any conception of self-hood. We are merely the pure, clear, expansive, profound, illuminated consciousness united with the Being. Whenever we identify with thought, we lose our experiences, but at that point we no longer regard ourselves as a terrestrial person. Our identity is no longer there. There is only the Being. And it is a “withdrawal from all formal authority” because, really, the authorities of this world do not know anything of internal states, the real experiences of the Being. This is very evident if you look at the politics of humanity and all the division amongst religious and social, spiritual groups.
Withdraw from formal authority and gather your authority from your inner experiences. Rely on your own divinity to teach you what is presence and what is absence.
Degrees of Presence and Absence
To be present in our body is different from being present with divinity in the higher dimensions. Each ספירה sephirah, we could say, is a veil for what is more subtle, that which obscures our understanding of the dimensions beyond it. Entering higher worlds is uncovering veils, obscurities―seeing reality in a more profound level of nature.
So the Qur’an allegorizes this very beautifully in many symbols relating to the horizon, the sky, how “Allah makes the heavens a sign for the believers,” whether the rising sun, the setting sun, the moon. These are not literal explanations. These are symbols of qualities of Being, because if you are in the internal planes and you see these astrological bodies, they are teaching you, divinity is teaching you something profound about yourself.
If the sun sets, it means something needs to die. If the sun is rising, it means something is being born. If there are stars, it is a symbol of presence with the Being, unity with divinity at our level, deeper remembrance, clarity, perception. But if the sky is clouded, it means that we are asleep. We have a lot of ego. We are cloudy in temperament and mind.
“‘Present,’ with the sense of being back from an absence, may also be used for the servant’s return to his perception of his own condition and human situations. This, however, refers to the presence with the creation, while the first use of the term refers to presence with the truth. States of absence vary―for some Sufis, absence is not prolonged, while for others it is continuous.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So our degree of development depends upon how consistent we are in entering silence of mind, serenity, insight, our internal worlds. We stay asleep and absent if we don't practice. This is a simple law of cause and effect. For some, absence is prolonged. For others it is short, depending on our level of being. Some of us may wake up more depending on our development, our work, our efforts. States of absence are replaced with states of presence when we are consistent at our exercises.
The Subtleties of Absence and Presence
So in synthesis, the more we are absent to the ego, not identified with it, the greater our cognizance of divinity. The more attention and energy we invest in the ego, the greater our absence of and distance from the Being.
Once entering clearer states of remembrance and divine experiences, oftentimes the methods we use to reach those heights are no longer necessary. This is a very subtle thing that Al-Qushayri really explains. For example, to really be present on an object of concentration, such as a mantra, pranayama, a candle, a visualization, an image, requires that we become absent to distractions. And this is really the value of such exercises. We train ourselves to be here and now, to discover how our mind keeps us asleep, how we fantasize, how we are hypnotized.
It takes tremendous effort and energy to be focused in the beginning. However, by deepening our tranquility, it takes less effort and more familiarization with that state. And when you have achieved perfect serenity, it takes no effort, which is why Al-Qushayri states in Principles of Sufism:
“According to etymology, the disciple is ‘he who possesses will,’ just as the knower is ‘he who possesses knowledge,’ because the word belongs to the class of derived nouns. But in Sufi usage, the disciple is he who possesses no will at all!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very subtle. It means not to have any egotistical will, no desires present, no distractions, no fantasies. After we obtain perfect concentration, we don't need any effort to maintain it. We only need to be familiar with it. This is very well known within Buddhism, especially. When obtaining serenity, we are absent from desire and present within our Essence, the human soul, Tiphereth in Hebrew, Ihsan in Arabic, the beauty of the consciousness within Kabbalah.
Let us read some excerpts from this book, Revelation of the Mystery, (Khashf al-Mahjub):
“...inasmuch as all excellencies are bound up with presence, and as absence from one’s self is a way leading to presence with God, the way becomes an imperfection after you have arrived at the goal.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So when you are fully concentrated in divinity, it does not take any exertion or effort. You simply have to be present. This is a qualitative state you have to become familiar with through a lot of practice and trial and error.
“Presence (in God) is the fruit of absence (from desire), but what light is to be found in absence without presence? A man must needs renounce heedlessness (distractions, novelties, vain amusements, a distracted mind) in order that, by means of this absence, he may attain to presence (with the Being); and when he has attained to his object, the means by which he attained it has no longer any worth.
“The ‘absent’ one is not he who is absent from his country, But he who is absent from all desire.
The ‘present’ one is not he who hath no desire (longing for divinity),
But he who hath no heart (no thought of worldly things),
So that his desire is ever fixed on God.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So desire can be interpreted in different ways. Obviously in the Gnostic teachings, strictly, we use desire to refer to the ego, but some people refer, the Sufis refer poetically, semantically, to the desire for God, which is a longing―better said―for our uses, our language. Longing is different from desire, the Essence from the ego. But here, the Sufis often take the same word and give it multiple meanings in different contexts. This is the beauty of that system, the complexity of it, the subtlety.
Absence of Personality and Presence with God
The qualities of initiates, their presence in divinity, is not understood by common people. Many Sufi stories are, as I said, parables of psychological truths, initiatic principles. Many of them demonstrate not the aloofness of Sufi Masters, but the reality of mystical states. One such master, Bayazid Bastami, illustrated how we have to become lost to ourselves. Samael Aun Weor even stated in a lecture called “The Knowledge of Oneself” the following:
“We must attain a change in order to eliminate all our weaknesses. We must even lose our own personal identity. This means that the change must be radical and complete. Our personal identity, for example, "I am so and so," must be eliminated from oneself; and then one day we will find that we have no personal identity. If we truly want to become different, then obviously personal identity has to be lost. We need to convert ourselves into entirely different creatures, happy creatures; and we have the right to happiness.” ―Samael Aun Weor
I know a lot of people hear that and read that and get scandalized. This does not mean we become zombies. The Essence has a dynamic solar personality. The absence and annihilation of ego does not mean that we are soulless, without life. In fact, it means we are more creative, more brilliant, more intuitive. You possess ethical character that knows how to respond to life in its worst problems, with clarity, with equanimity, with intelligence. We must eliminate egos, nafs, so that we develop the soul that knows how to live life with efficacy and wisdom.
However, people are really afraid of this term annihilation. They run away from this term even though it is essential to every religion. Annihilating the ego is painful for people because they have never experienced anything outside of it. People don't want to approach it because they are afraid. They mistake their personality, their hatred, their impatience, their lust, their vanity, their pride, their envy, etc., as if it is true. This is a mistaken sense of self, these selves, these egos which must be removed, these nafs, these lower animal qualities that the Sufis speak abundantly about eliminating in their doctrine. And in that process we gain understanding that we are not this terrestrial personality. We are not the ego. We are something more profound, and the Sufis have a beautiful story about this:
“It is related that Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri sent one of his companions to Abu Yazid al Bistami so that the man could bring him word of Abu Yazid’s quality (meaning: his level of being). When he reached Bistam, the messenger inquired after the house of Abu Yazid and went in to see him. Abu Yazid asked, ‘What do you want?’ ‘I want Abu Yazid,’ he said. ‘Who is Abu Yazid?’ was the reply, ‘and where is Abu Yazid? I myself am in search of Abu Yazid!’
“The man went away, saying to himself, ‘This one is mad!’ He returned to Dhu-l-Nun and informed him of what he had seen. Dhu-l-Nun wept. ‘My brother Abu Yazid has left with those who go to God,’ said he.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Obviously, the Sufis play with the trope of the initiatic madman: that disciple of God who is never understood by the masses because they cannot comprehend the eccentricities and dynamic profundities of the Spirit, because they [the inituates] don't go along with conventionalisms, with vain religious beliefs and outward adherences.
So this is a symbol of something very beautiful and profound. You know, this initiate was so advanced in his work that he was saying “Where is my personality? I am looking for a self here.” Meaning, he is really scrutinizing and looking for those final egos to eliminate. You know, this is very high work. Obviously, we have thousands upon thousands of egos in the beginning, but as we advance in this process, the ego is eliminated until there are none left. So Dhu-l-Nun recognized this and cried by how beautiful this allegory is, that this initiate is saying, “I am looking for a self here and I don't find one.” This refers to initiatic hierarchy.
Presence Over Absence
However, to be truly present is a very difficult path, which is why the following teaching was given by Al-Hujwiri in Revelation of the Mystery:
“A certain man came to Junayd and said, ‘Be present with me for a moment that I may speak to thee.’ Junayd answered: ‘O young man, you demand of me something that I have long been seeking. For many years I have been wishing to become present with myself a moment, but I cannot; how, then, can I become present with you just now?’” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
You know many people have difficulty in the beginning of our studies knowing how to relate to people even, because they are so introspective and they are learning how to be present for the first time, and learning how to relate to the world in this new state is difficult, because this type of analysis and work requires a complete introversion and transformation of our attitude. But with time we learn. With practice, we learn to be present.
“Therefore, absence involves the sorrow of being veiled, while “presence” involves the joy of revelation, and the former state can never be equal to the latter. Shaykh Abu Sa’id says on the subject―
“The clouds of separation have been cleared away from the moon of love,
And the light of morning has shone forth from the darkness of the Unseen.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So again, that is symbolism from the Qur’an. If you want to know your level of being, how present you are, ask internally and let them show you the sky in the astral horizon. Do you see clouds separating you from the galaxies, from the stars, from the heavens? Or do you see the light of morning shining out of the darkness, rising as a symbol of your birth? Levels upon levels of light, presence in deeper states.
We will conclude with a statement by Samael Aun Weor which synthesizes everything we have said:
“Wherever we direct our attention, we spend creative energy.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So, how are we spending our attention?
What are we focused on? For how long, and why?
Why do we invest our energy in certain behaviors, in certain qualities, in certain actions?
What direction do we want to take our life?
If we are really analyzing our behavior from day-to-day, we can sit in a quiet space after our mindfulness practice, our self-observation, and remembrance throughout the day. We close our eyes, we relax, we introspect. We calm the body, calm the senses. We can work with pranayama, breath work, transmutation, mantras, etc., energy work. You can even do runes before you sit to meditate, so that you have energy circulating in you that is going to be conducive for your relaxation. Your ethics combined with energy create a very powerful conduit by which to meditate.
When you sit quietly, relax your heart through prayer. Pray to your Inner Being to show you what you need to work on and what you need to do, to help you understand your daily circumstances, your behaviors, so that you can change. Concentrate inwardly and do not let your thoughts distract you from your goal.
When you are really profoundly concentrated, your mind will be serene, especially if you are working really well with energy. You know, for people who have a very disbalanced mind or imbalanced mind, a lot of suffering, a lot of affliction, it is good to work with sacred sounds, mantras, so that you gain clarity and calm. And when the mind is still, you can focus on whatever you want to understand.
I recommend reviewing your day. Retrospect your day. How present were you in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening? Where did you forget yourself? What did you observe? What did you remember? How present were you in certain situations?
Bring this to your attention in your imagination. See it. Visualize it. Look at it. And look for those gaps in which you were not awake. Try to remember where you were, what you did, what you said, who you were with, what happened, what you were thinking, what you were feeling. We have to learn to understand what happened to us and what led us to sleep. Try to remember everything that happened. Retrospect.
There is a very powerful mantra that you can use in our tradition, in Gnosis, that can aid you in remembering your day and even your dreams, if you have just awakened from sleep and you want to remember what you just dreamed about, and by not moving your body, mentally pronounce the mantras RAOM GAOM.
Samael Aun Weor says this mantra is like dynamite. It will help you blow a pathway into the subconsciousness, the caves of the mind.
At this point in time, I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: Can you recommend a practice for trilling the R's in mantras?
Instructor: I believe you can even go on YouTube and look up Spanish pronunciations of the letter, because R is very common in Spanish. You know, there are a few videos you can probably look up and find that will teach you how to use the pronunciation of the letter R. Basically, it involves rolling your tongue at the roof of your mouth so that you can make the tongue to vibrate, but if you look online for some videos, you can definitely find some.
Question: Don't you have to move in the morning to turn off your alarm?
Instructor: So in reference to not moving your body when you physically wake up in the morning so that you can remember your dreams―this can be very difficult. I know I have had that problem where I had to get up early for work, especially before COVID-19, very early, in which my alarm would pull me out of my experiences and I had to return to my body, but sometimes, I find it difficult to remember what happened.
It takes a lot of willpower. Even if your alarms going off, hopefully, it's not too much of an annoying one. Maybe pick something that is more relaxing. You know, some meditative bells or something that is quiet. That is what I like to use for an alarm. And, I don't move. Even if I have time constraints, I concentrate on myself and do the mantra mentally so that I could remember, especially if the experience is very profound and very intense. That's something that you don't want to forget, what happened internally. And if you move your physical body when you wake up from dreams, the connection between the astral body and the physical body gets shaken, or the astral body and its memories become diffused and don't really enter the physical brain if there is too much movement.
When you wake up in the morning, obviously, there is a connection that is very vital and sensitive, which is why we shouldn't move the body, just in the same way that you can't reflect the images of a lake, of the heavens, if the water is rippling with movement. The same principle applies here. But, if you really want to remember your dreams, I just recommend don't move. If your alarm is really annoying, then as I said, maybe change it.
Question: We have a question about awakening. Does it happen suddenly or is it more like a process happening gradually?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor mentions in The Perfect Matrimony that awakening is gradual. Now, there are moments in which we can gain greater clarity, such as through an ecstasy or samadhi, an experience that is very divine, mostly because we get help. The Sufis spend a lot of time talking about the blessings of the initiates called بركة barakah in Arabic or the Hebrew version of בָּרוּךְ Baruch, meaning “blessings.” So as the Jews say, ברוך אתה אדוני Baruch Attah Adonai, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” and Barakah is the blessings of a master when they give light to us, so that we can have a temporary experience that gives us some kind of illumination.
Now, as for developing that completely in us in its full totality, it happens naturally over a process, gradually. Because just as a tree doesn't grow into a profound oak, from a sapling in one day, it happens through a process, a temporality. It takes time, in conventional language. So the important thing is not to be impatient with wanting experiences or development, because you have to be really tenacious about our exercises and to work even if we feel like we are not getting results, because with time you will see the roots of your practice. So it happens gradually.
Question: Does the degree of ego elimination one achieves in a single practice depend on the complexity of the ego?
Instructor: I would say the degree of ego elimination occurs in accordance with the depth of our comprehension. If it's a really complex ego, obviously, it's going to take more comprehension, which means that if our understanding is more profound and deep, we are going to really eliminate the roots.
But for that, we have to really be absent from the body physically and be present internally, to go inside and even in the higher dimensions to investigate the source of those egos that we have to really analyze.
Comprehension is what grants us the degrees of elimination. How much do we understand? Because if you don't understand the depths of an ego, we can't really eliminate it in its roots. Obviously, there are egos that are very superficial, that exist within the higher levels of the mind, but in the depths we have to go very profoundly into ourselves, and that is a very long work, a very patient work.
Question: My understanding of the Nous atom is that this is the Christic atom of our heart, or in our heart. (Instructor’s explanation: for those of you are not familiar, it is in the left ventricle of our heart itself). How do you reconcile this with your reference to the ego as nous or spelled n, o, u, s, e?
Instructor: So, in Arabic the term for ego is نَفْس nafs: n-a-f-s. νοῦς Nous in Greek is different. That is the Christic atom as you mentioned, but ego is nafas or nafs in Arabic. So different, different terminology. Obviously, the ego has nothing to do with the Atom Nous because the Atom Nous is a very divine spiritual influence in us, which also relates to Geburah, to Din, to justice in Arabic. Allah-Din, the conscience and judgment of God. It relates to our Atom Nous, which is used to judge nafs, the lower soul, the animal egos we have to eliminate.
Question: Explain the difference between general spaciness with absence, for I found it hard to relate with this world anyway. Too much introspection has left me a few friends.
Instructor: So I like that you asked that question, because it relates to a very serious problem amongst many Gnostics. You know, some people can easily read the term absence within Sufi language and conflate it with being spacey or imbalanced, not knowing how to socially relate to others. And of course, the stories within Sufism seem to correlate or explain, or show that dynamic especially, that the Sufi masters are just out there.
I think that is part of the appeal in Western societies, that these Sufi masters have a type of understanding that goes against conventionalities. Now, while there is a level of credence to that, at the same time, if we are learning to be absent from the ego and present with our consciousness, it doesn't mean that we are going to be spacey people, like zombies, not knowing how to relate to other people. In fact, these are states of consciousness in a more profound sense, levels of being.
We have to learn how to be present in our daily life, that is the important thing, especially as beginners. We need to learn how to be absent to our ego but also present in our body, present in our consciousness, so that we know how to relate to the world. There is a very fatal polarity in this term of absence, in such that we can be so introspective that we don't know how to relate to other people, and this is mistaken.
The important thing is that when we introspect, we also have to be aware of the world outside of us, to know how to relate our internal world with the external world. This is why we spent a lot of time in our last lecture talking about contraction and expansion. We have to be aware of our surroundings, expansive in our cognizance of the people we are surrounded with or surrounded by, and also contracted or attentive to our internal states. We have to analyze our personal states and our external events, and the relationship thereof. This is what Samael Aun Weor mentions as the requisites in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology. We have to be present in the body, present of our internal states, introspective, but not being antisocial. That is very different. That is a personality problem, typically.
You know, it is also egos of awkwardness that don't know how to relate to people in certain situations. If you eliminate egos of awkwardness and observe that in yourself and really destroy them with comprehension in your meditations, you are going to learn how to be more social and ethical, and even funny.
I will relate to you an experience I had long time ago, because in the beginning of my studies I had this problem, where I was so introspective that I didn't know how to relate to people, and so I lost a number of friends and was becoming very sour at my practice, until finally my Being came to me in the astral plane and reprimanded me. He showed me some instructional videos teaching me what I needed to do. He said I needed to be, and this is the funny part, “like Bill Murray,” and I was kind of shocked by this answer. What I saw in his relationships, in the video with other people, that he was very social and funny. People liked him, but at the same time, I could see that this representation of this actor was being very serious in his work. Meaning, there was the thread of continuity of attention there, but meanwhile, knowing how to relate to other people in a very humorous way. I mean it's a funny experience, but a very objective one. You know, I have meditated on that for quite a while now, but it really helped me because I was being very negative in my practice, thinking that introspection has to do with not relating to people―and this is wrong.
Being absent to the ego means to enact positive states or qualities of Essence, of Being, and in this way, you develop better friends, better friendships. You know how to relate to people more. You know how to support your community better, how to help others, how to be helped, how to receive help without that morbidity or shame that usually accompanies that type of introspection that is negative.
Question: In comparison, the partial opening of the eyes of Buddha, does it symbolize the need to be aware of the outside world?
Instructor: I am sure there is a lot of symbolism in that, or different representations of Buddha, but yes, that is part of it. We have to be aware of the outside world but also introspecting within. So again, contraction and expansion are represented by that common depiction of the Buddha. Buddha simply means “awakened one,” which is the purpose of our exercises in our studies in Gnosticism.
Question: I am a medical provider amongst homeless communities in Los Angeles. It can be quite stressful during the day as we deal with life and death situations, or situations that deal with heavy drug use and sex work. How can I keep the consciousness awake in these scenarios? I tend to think about my patients in meditation, which I struggle with at times.
Instructor: This is a very delicate thing. It's important that we feel safe, that we feel protected, that we feel awake, and also that we are really taking care of our own health, especially if we have a job that is very difficult. I never worked as a medical provider, but I have had other jobs that have been pretty taxing on my mental and emotional health, and in those situations―where it was not necessarily life and death, but very confrontational or difficult, and in your case, dealing with life and death situations or negative influences―it is important to really work with energy. You know, it could be very draining to be in those circumstances and you can often feel very disempowered, whether by the system one works in or one's own abilities, feeling insufficient or deficient or doubtful. Your profession is obviously a very noble one and it is very much needed, so if this is something that your Being is pushing you to do and if it's able to provide your necessities for your life, then obviously you have to follow your conscience.
But again, if you find that there are difficulties that you can't handle, it's important to be safe, especially, to protect oneself and to create a space in oneself and even one's physical life in order to be able to handle those circumstances. I recommend, if you find that it's difficult to deal with the situations, it's hard to see it and understand it and to overcome the shock of it, to work with exercises like the runes. I remember at one of my jobs where I had to deal with, you know, pretty difficult clients, very difficult people that I had a hard time transforming the impressions of, I would do hours of runes. I would have breaks during my day, sometimes for an hour and a half or more, and I would just, instead of prepping for my day or doing other things, I would do the Rune Fah, the Rune Dorn, the seven vowels, for a long time. I would charge myself with enough energy so that I felt awake. I felt aware, and I felt concentrated in myself.
You know, the Rune Dorn is very powerful for that. It develops Christ will, solar will, so that we can learn to handle really horrible situations with grace. But of course, you have to learn balance. You can work with those runes, really practice them deeply, for a long time if you can. Give yourself enough energy to empower your Essence so that you can transform the situation, and also meditate on your reactions too. But depending on your abilities and your health, emotionally, especially with this kind of work, you need to evaluate or really consider, you know, what is going to be best for you. We have to sacrifice for humanity, but at the same time, we have to take care of ourselves too, so that is something that you need to be the judge of. But runes are especially powerful for that. Study the Magic of the Runes. Those Gnostic exercises, those yogic postures are really powerful. They can really help you.
Question: Are there times where the Being will place symbols within physical life, similar to dream symbols, that speak another language, of intuition? Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life where a particular event happens, which helped me to reflect, or even numbers appearing within the physical life or the physical world. Can these have meaning here within physical life, and how can you become a vigilant one without being overly tired the next day? Or perform a vigil without being overly tired the next day?
Instructor: So let's break down this question step by step. “Are there times where the Being will place symbols within our physical life, similar to the dream symbols, that speak in the language of dreams, intuition?” There can be that relationship. You know, some people have reported having experiences internally, and then that same circumstance unfolds itself physically. I have had this happen to myself many times.
Now, typically from my experience, I found that the symbols of dreams have an allegorical depth. They have a profound relationship to physical life. They explain physical circumstances, but not necessarily, you know, we wake up and then we see the same symbol from the dream. My experience has been that dreams show us something much more prophetic, and that the symbols represent qualities of being, but also how different relationships or circumstances can play out. For example, I remember one experience (I mentioned this in the Beginning Self-transformation course) that I had an astral experience where I was driving down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, when at 4:00 am in the middle of the morning, when it was pitch-black, my mother in the dream, my physical mother, stopped me as I was driving my car. She asked me to get out, so I let her take the wheel and I got in the passenger seat, and then I woke up. Later that day, physically, I had an ordeal or circumstance in which I was at a drive-through in a Starbucks―going out of town from Chicago with my wife, to get away from COVID-19 and get into the woods, enjoy some recreation―when a person in the line had driven past me and rolled down his window. He didn't really say anything extremely offensive. But you know, I took it as an offense, and my ego was, my rage and anger was building up from that moment. And so my wife said, “I see you're getting upset here. Let me take the wheel.” So I got out of the car, she took the driver's seat, and I sat in the passenger seat and was reflecting on my own anger until I could comprehend four egos I need to work on and eliminate.
Literally in the dream, my mother, my Divine Mother better said, took control of my car, which is symbolically representing my mind, but even in the physical ordeal, my wife took the car or took the wheel, and I got out into the passenger seat. So that literally did happen. So it’s possible―more importantly for me, this was a symbol of multiple layers of meaning. Physically is one component, but more importantly, my Divine Mother, my Being, was controlling my mind and helping me to work on my ego, because it was pitch black in the dream. My mind was dark. I wasn't seeing clearly, and that allowed a certain ego to manifest in me, or certain egos to manifest in me that could have created problems.
So let's look at the rest of your question. “Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life or a particular event happens which helps me to reflect.”
So yes, our dreams reflect the quality of our daily life. So this is direct correlation.
“Even numbers appearing within physical existence or life, can these have meaning here within physical life itself?” I would say there could be a relationship, but as I related a quote earlier regarding Samael Aun Weor and the struggle of the opposites from The Revolution of the Dialectic, it’s important not to fill our life with too many sermons, symbols, meanings, allegories, warnings. Learn to live with a receptive mind, and in that way you can interpret how your dreams relate to your physical existence without imposing or projecting any beliefs onto what we see.
So how do you perform a vigil without being over the tired the next day? Well, the purpose is to sacrifice one's energy and time to do these practices. They could be difficult. Hopefully if you have time to sleep in later that's good, but part of the constituency of this exercise is that you stay up and meditate and practice, so that you can really go deeper in your work, even though it's going to make you tired. But obviously, find balance in what you do.
Question: I didn't really comprehend the parable of the blacksmith placing his hand in the fire. That his name represents a metal alchemically.
Instructor: Yes, his name was Al-Haddad, which in Arabic relates to Al-Hadid, which is basically almost spelled the same. Al-Hadid means “The Iron,” and there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Iron,” specifically, where we read a quote or excerpt in relation to that story.
It is a symbol of how we use our willpower, represented by the metal iron within alchemy, to control our mind. It is willpower. We use our will power to work with the fire, the sexual energy, specifically. When he placed his hand into the fire, he didn't get burned. This is the literal meaning of the story, but symbolically it refers to how when we are alchemists, we learn to work with the sexual energy and not get burned by it, because we are in the remembrance of the divine. We are in the presence of divinity. Because in the story, he was listening to the Qur’an while he was working in his shop, and so the meaning thereof is that he was remembering the recitation, because Qur’an in Arabic is “recitation,” and it refers to his remembrance or continuity of remembering divinity. You know traditionally in Islam, they will recite the Qur’an musically, verbally, with a lot of beautiful intonations and expression. That is a practice that is very profound. I like to listen to those recitations quite a lot, because the melodies are very beautiful, but also the power in the verses is very profound if we know Kabbalah and Alchemy. They would recite, and they do recite the Qur’an as a form of remembrance. That is a text that is very beautiful, and like any scripture, we can remember divinity if we are really studying it astutely, very deeply.
When the blacksmith in the story, Al-Haddad was listening to the Qur’an, it is a reference to how he is really seeing the teachings and understanding them and practicing them. In that way, we can overcome many ordeals, symbolically. It doesn't mean we are going to put our hand into a forge and pull out hot iron because we hear the Qur’an, literally. The language of the Sufis is symbolic, so we approach those stories with a lot of subtlety in relation to psychological work: Psychology, Kabbalah and Alchemy.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
Everything in nature is in movement, in flux. Every phenomenon in the entire universe possesses its own rhythm, temporality, and flow.
As we explained in the previous lecture, breath is in a state of transience. This parallels cosmic periods of manifestation, of activity, and of repose. Just as our breath constitutes the flux, the pervasiveness of life, the expression of the soul, so too does the consciousness manifest in different states, with different qualities of being, of expression. If you have studied Gnosticism for some time, we always remember that consciousness has infinite levels, from the most basic, the most primordial, that which is germinal―to the most refined, the most beautified, the most sacred, as demonstrated by the quality of life and mind of the greatest initiates, the greatest meditators: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor.
Consciousness as we currently possess it is not developed, because our daily state is mostly constituted of negative qualities: distraction, affliction, suffering. All traditions teach that the human being is a germ for sacred individuality and consciousness. We possess the body of a human, a humanoid organism, but our mind, as has been demonstrated, is animal. Our mind always chases after cravings. We run away from unpleasant situations, aversive things. All the while we are ignorant of how our own internal psychology produces pain, produces suffering.
This is why we study and practice meditation. We want to learn how to develop our complete potential, so that we cease suffering. We suffer because we don't readily perceive how our own nafs, nafas, animal defects, egos, keep us hypnotized and asleep. We go through life feeling that we are unitary, when in truth we are humanoids in a constant state of contradiction. We are a multiplicity, and this is something very important to remember, because in Sufism and Islam, those initiates speak abundantly about the unity of God.
This is declared in the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith, that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” To state this with conviction is something extremely sacred, very profound. It means to have a concentrated will without any defect whatsoever―no idol, no negative crystallization in the mind, no naf, no ego, no blemish, no fault. This is how we really obey divinity, to reach those heights, and that is the definition of a true Gnostic, a true Muslim, a true Sufi.
We can only really say that divinity is one when we ourselves are singular. We have to unify the consciousness. We have to purify the consciousness. The Essence must not be conditioned anymore, because each ego, desire, vice, error, conditions and traps who we really are. And because of our different defects, which pull us in multiple directions, we are fractured.
We are distracted, moving in many directions at once, and also spiritually going nowhere. This has to change. This is why we study concentration of mind, concentration of will, meditation. God wants to express His perfection in us, but for that, the soul, the consciousness, the Essence, must be pure.
So meditation is the science that leads us to that unity, to the unification of the consciousness To develop consciousness, we study ethics. We practice purity. We work with energy. We work with our breath to empower our consciousness, so that it opens the inner doorway to understanding. As we are working with these preliminaries, we have to really study how the consciousness works, and for this the Sufis speak abundantly about two very important types of consciousness: contraction and expansion. For the sake of clarity, it will be good to define these terms within conventional english.
“Contraction is the process of becoming smaller. Some synonyms include shrinking, reduction in size, shrinkage, decline, decrease, dwindling, down tick; it is the process in which a muscle becomes, or is made, shorter and tighter.” This is similar to “tightening, tensing, flexing, constricting.” ―Online Dictionary
All of these definitions point towards a restriction or limiting, a heightened focus, a type of diminution, to really concentrate and restrict our vision to one thing.
The opposite of contraction is expansion. This definition includes:
“The action of becoming larger or more extensive. This is similar to growth, increase in size, and enlargement, extension, augmentation, development, evolution, build up, build-out, scaling up, spread, proliferation, multiplication, mushrooming, evolvement. It is the extension of a state’s territory by encroaching on that of other nations pursued as a political strategy,” (as an example of what expansion involves or as typically understood). ―Online Dictionary
These definitions relate how something within a small space moves outward to fill something greater in volume, much like smoke rising and filling the sky during a campfire.
We find contraction and expansion in our breathing process. When we inhale air, our lungs expand, and when we exhale, our lungs contract, so that we can expel toxins and waste from the body. Likewise, the heart, when it fills with blood, the heart expands, and when pumping blood through the body, it contracts. This flux or rhythm in our body is essential to daily life.
While this is very true, we also possess, in our consciousness, states of contraction and expansion. These are fundamental and necessary for our spirituality, for psychological balance, for our meditation. All this of course is guided by divinity, for as the great Sufi poet Rumi taught:
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” ―Rumi
Let us explain what contraction and expansion mean in regards to states of consciousness.
Definitions of Contraction and Expansion
So in meditation we study two very profound principles, which can aid us in awakening our consciousness. These are attention and awareness.
Attention is highly focused. It is directed. It is concentrated. If I were to tell you to direct your attention to your right thumb, you would experience a shift in your consciousness. You can try this at this moment.
You may suddenly have awareness or cognizance of your right thumb because you have directed your attention to it. Yet, how many of us were actually aware of our thumb, our hand, our fingers, our body? Probably before I even mentioned it, you might not have been paying attention, because you were following the thread, the continuity of my voice, and the ideas we are expressing.
Let's try another experiment. Become aware of your surroundings. What is your home like where you are at? Are you driving and listening to this lecture? Become aware of the street. Become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of your environment. No matter the time, the weather, the place, the people around you, or if there are no people, become aware of your external situation.
Not only should we be aware of our environment, but we have to be aware of whatever task we are involved in. How attentive are we right now to my words? Are we maintaining a continuity of directed attention towards these ideas that I am presenting to you? Or are we thinking of other things? Are we making a mechanical associations in our mind, such as “I heard something similar to this before,” or “this reminds me of another lecture I heard.” It could be any type of commentary in the mind, in the intellect.
Or as you have been listening to this conversation, this lecture, have you lost the thread of what was being said because you got distracted? Do you remember or did you forget what I said a minute ago?
So this little experiment reveals something very interesting. If we are talking in our heads instead of being attentive to this lecture, it means we are not conscious. Likewise, if we are not aware of our environment, we are also asleep. The Essence is not awake.
This is why we practice meditation, because the consciousness needs training. We typically get distracted very easily, and so in the beginning, we need more focus. We need will. We need concentration on whatever activity of life we engage in. However, many times we also tend to go through our home, the bedroom, our neighborhood, without any cognizance of our surroundings. We do so blindly, because we don't see what is new. We have a representation of our environment in our mind to which we relate, or we are so deep and lost in reverie and thought that we don't notice what is going around us.
What is happening? We could be driving our car in an alley and suddenly come across a person, perhaps someone who was injured lying on the ground, something very unusual. And if I am relating this example, it is because this happened to me today. I was driving my car back to my home after being away from work, and I suddenly realized as I was driving that a group of people were standing near the side of the alley where I usually park. There was a person who was injured or not moving. I was shocked. Obviously, you know, I spoke with the people there, that they had called the police and they were going to get an ambulance. You know, this is such a shocking and alarming thing, disturbing.
In that moment, I felt very alert, because I realized I wasn't paying attention. I was expecting that I was going to go home according to my routine, according to mechanicity, and it took awareness of my surroundings and a person driving the other direction to roll down their window and tell me that something was ahead. So we are very sleepy, and we have to train ourselves to be aware of what is happening at all times.
We have to remember that the consciousness is like a light. It is perception itself. When we lack attention and awareness, it means that the light of our consciousness is diffused. It means that our light is obscured, because our mind, our egos, our defects, keep us preoccupied. We invest our energy, our light, into them. The ego, like a moon, has eclipsed our sun.
So when we talk about these principles, we have to remember that attention is like a flashlight. When you use a flashlight, you direct it. You concentrate it. You focus it.
Now, awareness is a little different. It is expansive. It has volume. It is luminous. It is amplified. It spreads outward in its radiance and radius towards our surroundings, when we do so willingly.
Perhaps with these examples you can see where we are headed when talking about the Sufi teachings on contraction and expansion. So the Sufis explain that contraction and expansion, focus and broad spatiality, are attention and awareness. So contraction is when our attention is focused on one thing. So, as I was driving my car today and a person in the other lane pulled up and rolled down their window, I was contracted in my attention. I was directing my attention to that person, but I wasn't aware of what was ahead of me. I had a shift in my consciousness when I suddenly realized what was going on. So this is an example of how with contraction, we are focused on one thing, but with awareness, it is a broad spatial perception. We become aware of our surroundings.
Contraction in Self-Observation
So contraction also happens in our work of self-observation. This is really important to understand. When we study our different defects, our egos, moment by moment, we are focused on our interior. So while it's true that we have to be aware of what is happening outside of us, we have to divide our attention inside. You know, often times when we make a mistake, we can also feel a contraction in our heart, a state of remorse, and we can feel and exclaim or feel that we have really done something stupid.
As I am explaining these concepts, there is a lot of dynamic range with these principles. Here I am introducing just a few, but basically contraction and expansion occurs in self-observation, especially―the work of the ego. We can experience a state of contraction, of heightened focus, when we catch a defect within our three brains, because we are observing, we are conscious and attentive of our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Usually we can feel the pangs of conscience, the remorse of the soul whenever we come upon very disturbing egos, very big errors that we created, that we are responsible for.
Self-observation amongst the Sufis is muhasabah, inner-accounting. In this work, we have to take an account of our psychological states, those defects we have in abundance and those virtues we must develop further. This principle is very important. This is the foundation of gathering data about ourselves, so that we can achieve annihilation of the ego, fana, in Arabic. There is only reunion with the Being when the ego is fully dead. So we have to study ourselves. We have to observe ourselves.
Expansion in Awareness
So expansion is awareness, and through it we experience an amplified state, a magnification and a deepening of our perception of everything around us. Have you ever noticed on a rainy day, walking down the street of your home city or town or wherever you may be, and have really contemplated a sunset? The vibrancy and color, the depth, the beauty, the profundity of the moment? The way that leaves shift in the wind, or how puddles form upon the streets, the stones, the architecture around you, the buildings? With a state of awareness or expansion, we are deeply enmeshed, aware of everything surrounding ourselves in the moment. We have to learn to develop that clarity, because it helps us to go deep into our own consciousness. The consciousness is very dynamic, as we are saying.
It can expand outward, but also it can focus on a point inside, which in our works of self-observation, is the work of the ego―understanding the relationship between the ego, personal states, and external events. Both qualities: attention and awareness, contraction and expansion, are often depicted as two poles within Sufism, two opposites. However, they are both essential as Rumi was teaching us, because both principles or qualities of consciousness help us to be well-rounded.
There is an exercise in our tradition, or in many schools of meditation. To learn to cease thinking so much, we can pay attention to our surroundings, whether it be a deep walk in the woods, a hike in nature, in which we focus on the external world and the beauty of our surroundings. But also we need to learn to develop internal insight, focus, attention upon our different egotistical states, and also how our ego relates to the external world. This provides a comprehensive basis by which to gather data for our meditations.
Levels of Contraction and Expansion
So attention and awareness are developed in levels, in accordance with the level of being of the practical meditator. A true Gnostic, a true Sufi, a true Muslim, experiences these states with will, because they trained themselves for many years. Meditation masters also experience these states in an open, receptive way, because the Being determines for them through intuition, through influence, through inquietudes, a hunch, what to focus on and what to become aware of. Our Being can guide us in our daily life when we learn to connect with that inner conscience, the continuity of awareness and self-observation or remembrance of the divine. So bearing this in mind, we can begin to approach this very high level of understanding by examining what the Sufis taught. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“Contraction is to the gnostic what fear is to the beginner, and expansion is to the gnostic what hope is to the beginner.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginners fear many things, including the exploration of the ego. Many people are afraid to look inside of themselves because of the ugliness that they have, and this is a normal reaction, but we have to learn to overcome our own nausea and disgust, to quote Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So contraction can be focused on very unpleasant things, egotistical, negative states, but we have to learn to look inside, to feel that constriction and contraction of our attention, especially in moments of pain. We have to look at ourselves without running away. We have to not repress what we see, and we have to not justify it either. This is essential to develop maturity in this work.
Also, beginners hope to have awakened states, awareness of the superior worlds, through this discipline, and the Gnostics, those great masters of meditation, also enjoy an expansion of consciousness in the superior worlds through their meditation, their meditative practices.
"The distinction between contraction and fear and expansion and hope, is that fear only relates to something in the future, whether it be the loss of something dear or the onset of something dreaded. Hope likewise only relates to future events―the anticipation of something one likes or the awaited disappearance of something one dreads, the expected end of something one hates.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So beginners, we fear the uncertainties of the future, whether it be material or spiritual loss, difficult situations, challenges in life, ordeals. Likewise, we also hope for spiritual advancement and internal experiences in this path.
Yet, while these are normal sentiments for beginning meditators, we must learn to focus entirely on the moment, to be aware of all of its rich, enlightened, golden mysteries―alert novelties, the truth, the unknown.
"Contraction, however, is a subtle impact produced in the moment itself and the same is the case with expansion. The heart of the one who experiences fear and hope is attached by its two states to the future, while the “now” of the one who experiences contraction and expansion is captured by a feeling that overpowers him in the present.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is fundamental. We have to stop daydreaming. We have to stop thinking of some utopian future where experiences will come easily, by grace, that we must reach some plateau of wisdom and that the work is somehow magically done, easy, like blowing glass. Likewise, it's important to stop fearing the future and to mull over the past. It is important to have remorse and sincere work upon our errors, but not to be hypnotized by our histories, by our tragedies. We have to develop attention and awareness in the present. This occurs through self-observation.
Dynamics of Contraction
Al-Qushayri relates a very beautiful teaching that I would like to share with you:
"As the Sufis’ states differ, the quality of their contraction and expansion also differs. Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains. Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful and profound. There is a lot of meaning here that I'd like to unpack for you. One of the defining characteristics of self-observation, that we are really focusing our attention well, is that we do not become identified with what we perceive. Samael Aun Weor explains that to gather data about our defects, we need a division of attention. We need to separate our Essence, our consciousness, from the ego. This is basic. Without this, we cannot meditate. Without this, we cannot perceive anything clearly.
So the consciousness, the Essence is the one that observes. It is perception itself. It is alert, focused, clear attention. The Essence, the liberated consciousness must observe the ego, our defects, our vices, within our three brains. The ego is what is observed. We have to observe our internal reactions to external life, much in the same way that a director of a film, films an actor in a drama, a comedy, a tragedy. These dramas, comedies and tragedies of life are the external events, the situations, the circumstances of our existence.
We must not invest our energy externally towards anything outside of us. But we must become hermetically sealed. This means that when we respond to situations, we do not waste energy. We don't give energy to negative thoughts. We don't empower negative emotions and we don't hurt ourselves through negative actions. This is an intuitive, qualitative state in which we have to make many mistakes, because we are learning. This is why we meditate. We clear our mind. We review the events of our day in which our ego acted, in which the self, the conditioned mind, emerged within the screen of our attention.
So hermetical sealing, to be closed within, means to not waste our precious, conscious potential, because “Wherever we direct our attention, we expend creative energy,” says Samael Aun Weor. We have to be very clear, and to really be patient with ourselves, because it is not something we are going to master in one day. Instead, we learn to differentiate between egotistical states and conscious states.
You will know it through experience. What states of being produce happiness, liberation, contentment? And what states produce our suffering? We have explained this in depth previously.
So in relation to this quote, for some disciples:
“Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So we can be gathering data about the ego, such as a state of anger when we are criticized. We may still be a little bit identified with the event even though we are observing. We are consciously working not to invest ourselves into that element. So there are degrees of identification and degrees of remembrance, levels of being, “Light upon light,” says the Qur’an [24:35].
However, if we are really working seriously and very well, psychologically, if we are meditating on our mistakes and really working to retrospect at the end of our day, to catch those defects that emerged in certain events, we learn the distinct qualities of conditioning and we learn not to make those mistakes again, because we are comprehending more and more, how those errors manifest, how they feed, how they sustain, and how they pass. So if we are really working well, we do not lose any of our energy through the ego.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We become a barrier. No matter how bad things are externally, we do not internalize negativity at all. Samael Aun Weor stated, “Shut your doors to negativity.” This doesn't mean that we abandon certain friends or family members who may be toxic. There is some credence to this. If we need some space, it could be good to associate or disassociate with certain crowds. This is basic. But in reality, this principle relates to how we shut our psychological doors, because we can't avoid negativity at all times. We have to face the reality of life and the social conflicts of our humanity. We have to learn not to identify with any problem, to shut out any possibility of investing ourselves in the world's problems.
It doesn't mean we ignore those problems or don't do anything about them. It means that psychologically we have a space, a clarity, a serenity that is not shaken, so that we can learn to focus on those issues with greater understanding and comprehension. When we are serene and insightful, we can respond to life with efficacy, but this is learned through experience.
Dynamics of Expansion
So these principles also relate to expansion, to awareness. Al-Qushayri states:
“This is also how it is for people in the state of expansion. There may be an expansion in someone that widens his nature but does not cut him off from the majority of ordinary things. And there may be someone in bast who will not be affected by anything at all.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So when you expand conscious awareness, a broad spatial perception, a vividness of your surroundings, you learn to stop thinking. This is not forced. It is not repression. It is the natural quietude and silence of the mind. Our problem is that we invest too much in our internal chatter. By taking in the data of our surroundings, when we learn to have a receptive mind. As I said, such as through walks or hikes in nature, we can enter a very deep state of consciousness in which we are cut off from mundane things.
So the reality is that nothing around us is mundane, but it is rather our projection of our mind. We have to learn to see each moment as a golden child of Gnosis. You can study this in the “The Struggle of the Opposites,” a chapter in The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor, in which he describes how we overcome the illusions of the mind. And of course, there are degrees. There are levels to this. Sometimes we enter deep states of expansion, of awareness, but part of our mind is still stuck, is identified. Yet, with the most lucid perception according to Al-Qushayri, “there may be someone in expansion (bast) who will not be affected by anything at all.” We can become so aware of the details of life with such awareness, such clarity, like in a lucid dream, an astral experience, a samadhi, an ecstasy of the soul, that nothing can break that continuity easily.
Of course in the beginning, we struggle. We want to experience and maintain these lucid states at will. This is why we have different practices of concentration and awareness to help us focus our attention, but also develop more vividness, an amplification of our perception, our awareness.
The Signs of Contraction and Expansion
So as I mentioned, contraction-expansion are very broad principles. They have multiple levels of application and meaning according to the three levels or degrees of Sufism: Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah, or the introductory, the intermediate, and the advanced teaching.
So contraction, as a heightened focus, can occur during an ordeal, especially. In the beginning of our ethical discipline, we have to learn to become aware of everything that is happening outside and inside. When we feel remorse for a defect that we have observed in the moment, which is causing us a lot of pain, we have to really see it for what it is. This is impossible if we don't divide attention inward, but also have awareness of our external events.
We also experience expansions of a positive nature when we discover how to use our virtues, when we receive spiritual insight to a problem, that relieves us of a certain suffering and pain. So on one level, contraction feels like a restriction, and it can even sound painful when someone is restricted, is limited. But that inward contraction is necessary in this work, because if we don't confront our defects and feel that pain of remorse in our conscience, we will never change. It is through that introspective work, when we liberate consciousness and really pinpoint the defects we want to work on, that we can really work towards their elimination and expand our knowledge, our Being.
“One of the lowest causes of contraction is the arrival in the heart of a feeling brought on by a sign of divine reproof or a hint that one deserves punishment. This inevitably produces a contraction in the heart. Other feelings may be prompted by an indication, through a sort of kindness and welcome, of approach to God or response from Him. This produces an expansion in the heart.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Degrees of Contraction
There are degrees of contraction and expansion, which again, as we stated, process in accordance with the level of being of the meditator. There are levels to our conscience, a restriction of the heart, whereby we feel a certain intuition, a sudden sentiment that a specific behavior is wrong. The more we listen to our conscience, the deeper we go in our understanding. It is a fundamental principle.
The intellect cannot resolve problems. The heart, our conscience, is what knows how to perceive reality and to understand. The less we follow our states of introspection of contraction, of inner focus, of remorse and analysis, the more we depart from religion, from the teaching, because we disconnect ourselves. We don't listen to what our heart is telling us, what is right and what is wrong. We feel that contraction in our heart, that pain, that deep suffering, perhaps about an action we took in the past that we want to rectify, or feel that we can't. That is contraction, a very deep and profound one. And so these two principles really complement each other. They are both essential, as stated in this scripture, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“In general, the degree of contraction of which someone is capable is the same as his potential expansion and his expansion is to the degree of his contraction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So think of a heart that is perfectly balanced by its pumping of blood, its restrictive and expanding movements, just in the same way as Rumi said that the two wings of a bird extend and contract in order to create flight.
“There may be a contraction whose cause is unclear to the one who experiences it. He finds in his heart a state of contraction for which he perceives no reason or motive.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So here we may feel remorse, but we don't understand why, and this is why we have to gain clarity. We have to review a particular moment in the day in which we were confused, or we are suffering with a problem, to visualize it and to see it in our imagination, our perception, and to look for the cause, to introspect, to look, and to wait. Therefore, the Sufis state:
"The proper course of action for such a one is submission until that moment passes from him. If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase, and [his efforts] might be counted against him as an infringement of the principles of spiritual conduct.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this has to do with moments of observation. We must be mindful of the moment. We must be attentive, alert, aware. We have to be receptive to internal states of Being. This is a quality of the heart, the remembrance of the presence of God. We have to remember that distinct quality of communion with our own inner Spirit as we carefully scrutinize the ego.
So again, it is a division of attention. We are observing our defects, where we are remembering that we are the Essence, which belongs to the Being. We have to learn to act appropriately towards each external event with the appropriate internal state. So sometimes in an ordeal, perhaps we are really criticized very hard and we feel a lot of resentment, pride, hatred, and a conglomeration of different egos and defects emerging in that scene. Sometimes the best thing is to wait. Be patient. Learn to see the impression of that person, the aggressor, with serenity, with compassion, with gladness.
We have to really transform our perceptions of life, and this is not easy, because we want to retaliate, to react egotistically. If we react in the moment, we constrict ourselves even more, in a manner of speaking. We make our situation worse, because if we argue back, we create conflict. So it is better to comprehend the situation, to look at it, to not let the ego react, and let anger subside. As Prophet Muhammad taught, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." If we don't do this, we do not submit to God, to the rules of the moment.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I said, we tend to react to life. Here we need to learn to wait, to be patient, and sometimes in a situation, we have to respond quickly, and this is the great temptation of the mind. The ego reacts and wants to intervene. It is a mechanical reaction to life, but with patience and observation, we can wait for the appropriate internal state to follow our heart, so that we know how to respond with consciousness. To not do so is to contract oneself, to be delimited, to be egotistical, to be vain. Remember that the mind makes a swing between the battle of the opposites, “Should I or should I not retaliate to this critic?” Our mind also goes between how to get revenge, or perhaps we want to run away. Neither are viable, depending on the situation―in most cases. If we are just having an argument or a conflict at work or with a family member, instead, intuitive action, beyond the duality of oppositional thinking, leads the awakening of the consciousness.
"But if he surrenders to the rule of the moment, before long the state of contraction will vanish. As by God, may He be exalted, said, “And God brings about contraction and expansion” (2:245). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So I know a lot of us may think that divinity is far away, but the reality is that our Being is in our heart and is always telling us what we need to do. The problem is that we have too many veils, too many conditions of mind that obscure that thread that we have to hold on to. This is why in meditation we learn to introspect, to remove the veils of our perception.
Degrees of Expansion
Like breath, states of awareness or expansion suddenly arrived in accordance with divine will in a properly cultivated psychology. So when we train our attention to focus on one thing, to not be distracted, whether it be a candle, observing the flame and not thinking of other things, or practicing awareness of the present moment, this serenity of mind allows for light to reflect within our consciousness, to augment and expand it.
Again, Al-Qushayri states:
“And there may be an expansion that comes on suddenly―the one who experiences this encounters it unexpectedly, without knowing any reason for it. It shakes him and makes him giddy.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Sometimes in our practice, we can awaken in the astral plane. We suddenly have illumination and a vision which makes us very happy. The problem is that we tend to get overexcited, whereby we agitate the mind and lose the ecstasy, the experiences.
“The proper course of action for someone in this circumstance is silence and the observance of correct behavior, for there is at that moment a great danger for him. Such a person must beware of a hidden scheme, a test in the form of a gift.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How we handle visions is important, because even spiritual experiences can be a test to see whether or not we will act responsibly with light, or whether or not that light should be taken away because we abuse it―we indulge in negative states. It comes to my mind an experience I had in the astral plane, in which my awareness was expanded and I was flying over a beautiful landscape, enjoying the beauty of nature. I knew my God was with me, was guiding me. I landed in a forest upon a hill in the middle of the woods, and suddenly, I saw the numbers 600,000 on the ground, and certain women were approaching me―lustful women.
I intuitively knew that this was related to Arcanum 6 of the sacred tarot [The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah] in which I had to fight against my own lust. So it was a test and a blessing at the same time. I was given a vision, but this was a hidden scheme, a test, an ordeal, because the masters of the White Lodge awaken us in the astral plane to give us experiences and to test us, to see whether or not we will act ethically, because in this vision that I had, this experience, these women were trying to make me fall sexually and I had to throw them off of me in a great battle. Very difficult. I was very exhausted by the end, but that experience relates how we can be given light, amplification, and experiences, and yet, we can make very grave mistakes if we are not careful.
“Thus one of the Sufis said, “A door of expansion was opened upon me. I slipped so I was veiled from my station.” And on account of this they say. “Stay on the prayer-rug (bisat), and beware of delight (inbisat)!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Or as the Buddhist state, “Don't get drunk on Nirvana.”
We can become very attached to internal experiences. We have to have that type of awareness but not be attached, to be unmoved, to be serene.
This ties into the joy of awakened experiences and the discipline we need to contract or restrain our mind. All meditators must learn to experience the bliss of the consciousness by restricting and disciplining the animal ego.
Fear and Hope in God
Al-Junayd said the following, as quoted by Al-Qushayri in the Principles of Sufism:
“Junayd said, “Fear of God contracts me while hope of Him expands me. The real nature of things (haqiqah) unifies me [in His Presence], while the Truth of His Being (haqq) separates me [from Him in essence]. When He contracts me through fear, He makes me pass away from myself, and when He expands me through hope, He returns me to myself.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This fear is not egotistical. It is the reverence of the consciousness towards the divine law, especially chastity. We fear to make mistakes and to deviate from the path when we really revere God. So mystical experiences return us to ourselves, to remembrance of our reality, and this is how we learn to have genuine hope in the Being.
"When He unifies me through the real nature of things, He raises me to His Presence and when He separates me [from Him] through His Unique Truth, He makes me witness what is other than myself, and so veils me from Him." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So notice how mystical experience, states and stations in the path are governed by divinity. The Being contracts and expands our perceptions of consciousness depending on the need and His decisions, because the Being always manages our experiences, our light.
"He, may He be exalted, in all of that moves me [from state to state], not holding me back. He estranges me [from all else] but does not make me familiar with Him. It is in His Presence that I taste the food of my being. Would that He would annihilate me from myself and so gratify me, or take me away from myself and so revive me!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful. God determines our path, if we learn to follow His will in our three brains, our human machine. He gives us experiences, but doesn't make us familiar with Him, because many times when we long for the Being, we work harder. There is a very famous saying in Islam how God often withholds divine blessings or experiences as he hears the prayers of the disciple, because the sound of it is sweet to Him.
How do we taste the food of our Being? Meditation. Samael Aun Weor states that meditation is the daily bread of the wise, the bread of being. We gain insight when we are establishing ourselves in attention and awareness. Self-observation of our states and awareness of their relation to external events provide us with holistic data about our internal, humanoid machine, our ego. Through developing serenity of mind, calmness and equanimity of consciousness, we expand our awareness of the internal worlds.
This comes about after we learn to concentrate on one thing. We could focus on a sacred sound, or as we stated in the previous lecture: Breath, Ham-Sah, mantras, etc. We constrict our attention to the object of concentration so that the mind stops chattering. In the silence of meditation, when we learn to focus internally without distraction, we can receive internal knowledge and awareness of the internal worlds.
Three Types of Expansion
We spoke extensively about contraction. Abdullah Ansari of Herat speaks beautifully about expansion. His definition of expansion pertains also to enlightenment, spiritual insight, astral samadhis, conscious experiences within the internal worlds. As he states, citing the Qur’an:
“God, the Most High and Holy [speaks of one],’whose heart God has opened to Islam so that he has received enlightenment from God’ (39:22).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
We receive enlightenment through submission. How do we submit to God? It is by achieving equanimity of mind. So serenity is developed in degrees. We have to learn to overcome distractions to the object of our concentration, whether we are focusing on the breath, with a mantra, with pranayama, or a statue, an object, a candle flame. Or if you are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala. You can also concentrate upon the Arabic and Hebrew letters, especially, to focus on a principle represented in that calligraphy, so that the mind stops thinking of other things.
In some of these practices, we imagine and concentrate upon that image. We can see it before our physical eyes, and then we visualize it in our imagination. But in order for imagination to be very crisp, to be stable, we have to not forget what we are doing. So equanimity comes first, when we no longer get distracted, when our attention is crisp and clear. When it no longer takes effort to focus on our object, when we are accustomed and familiar with the perfect state of equanimity, we can learn to submit to God. This is how we receive enlightenment.
Notice how Muslims and Sufis, they bow their head towards the stone of Kaaba, as we see in this image―a symbol of working with the stone of Yesod. We have to bow our head by working with our energies, to calm the mind. We offer our calm, serene mind to the Being, but it is a process.
Of course, enlightenment occurs in levels. It begins with awakening physically, but also achieves or appears internally in our work.
“Expansion is the opening that God bestows upon the heart, the spiritual time, and the aspiration of a servant. And that is of three kinds: the expansion of prayers and invocations, the expansion in service, and the expansion during seeking.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Let us examine what these entail.
Prayers, Service, and Seeking
“The expansion of prayers has three signs: invocations with reverence, awestruck humble supplications, and beseeching God through Qur’anic divination.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So invocations and conjurations, as we have stated previously, help us to protect our reverence.
Humble supplications are our prayers. We concentrate and pray for the help we need, enter silence, and then when the mind is serene and receptive, we can receive the answers we need.
Qur'anic divination, for the purposes of our studies, is to read and study the doctrine. We pray for help that God gives us understanding through whatever scripture we read, such as in the Qur’an or the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We can sit, close our eyes, and pray, asking divinity to lead us to a chapter, by flipping through the pages, to show us that which we must read and understand, what we must read about to help us in our particular situation.
“And the expansion of service has three signs: lightly carrying the load of plentiful works, abundant prayers concealed from people, and a heart punctual in prayer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So, sacrifice for humanity without seeking benefits in return. This means to be consistent in our meditations and prayer, that whatever our schedule is, we have a set time in which we enter meditation, silence of mind.
People want experiences. They want expansion without recognizing that experiences are the payment the Logos grants us for good works, for sacrifices for humanity.
Consistent discipline and meditations makes expansions more frequent, since meditation transforms the astral body, according to Samael Aun Weor.
“And expansion during seeking as three signs: minimum audition yet great benefit, minimum service yet great joy, and minimum contemplative reflection yet great contemplative vision.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So we can listen to classical works of music, spiritual auditions, while being focused on the rhythm and the music as it enters our psyche, such as the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Liszt, and many others, which we have outlined in The Secret Teachings of Opera on our website. We can sit and concentrate upon the music, let our focus be entirely on our heart and the influence of those sounds upon our consciousness, which have the power to awaken our concentration and also our awareness, internally, of divine things. Classical compositions and music are Kabbalistic, and teaches many profound principles in nature.
Even when we perform small works of selfless service, sacrifice, the quality that it grants us when it is sincere is tremendous. It gives us motivation and happiness.
Lastly will conclude on one point: “An hour of meditation is better than a year of prayer” according to Prophet Muhammad. So minimum contemplative reflection, if it is very deep and profound, can really open a lot of doors for us. Quality, not quantity, is important. Although it is important that we build up our practices gradually, in accordance with our needs, so that we can train ourselves and deepen our discipline.
At this point in time I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can you find your vocation or do good work, but not identify with your external situation?
Instructor: Obviously, every disciple of this teaching faces hardships, ordeals, and there is a saying within the Qur’an that "All good and bad comes from Allah," the Being. As for finding our vocation, that is something that we have to really meditate upon and reflect.
We can basically sit in a quiet space, close our eyes, shut off our senses from the world, and visualize in our imagination, and reflect upon our positive qualities, our skills. Those skills and those virtues of the soul belong to the Being, and the Being can show you through visions in your meditations, through experiences, what you can do with your life.
I think it's important to remember that when we do find our vocation, our genuine mission in life for the spiritual work, you will realize and will find from experience that it is never just something easy. If you look at Beethoven, his mission was to provide the doctrine of Gnosis in his symphonies, in his works, and yet he suffered tremendously. So, I know sometimes we may think that by finding our vocation, we are going to have everything easy, and that's something that obviously we hope for, but the reality is that there are always going to be difficulties. But the reason that we are able to overcome them, our external situations, to not identify with them, is because we love what we do. That is the key of finding your vocation.
When you are providing some kind of service or work that you really love from your heart and soul, even when you are challenged, when you have doubt, when you are filled with fear, uncertainty and difficulties, you do what is best for others, because it is the right thing. It is an expression of our internal integrity. You find your vacation based off your psychological work. Change your behaviors that are harmful. Adopt virtuous behaviors. Expand your awareness outward. Expand your virtues outward to humanity. Let your consciousness be the one that dictates how you relate to others, because if we are just going along with the flow of life, if we are just reacting to our situation, blaming others for our problems and suffering, we are creating a lot of pain for ourselves and for our neighbor.
But the beginning is, learn to constrict your attention inside. Learn to evaluate in yourself what egos are causing you trouble, because when you eliminate the ego, you develop virtue. You develop comprehension, and then you know as a soul, as an Essence, how to resolve problems. So, internal self-observation is the key.
As you begin to learn about yourself and your abilities, your Being will naturally lead you to situations and environments in which you will expand your knowledge and your experience, so that you learn how to really fulfill your role in society and within the Gnostic teachings.
Question: Why do discursive thoughts seem to always have some importance and relevance?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor states that the thoughts and the egos of our intellect, our internal psychology, bear resemblance of half-truths. The reason why they seem compelling and important is because the ego is a mis-transformation of impressions.
So we have explained previously how the ego is created, the self is created, through a mis-transformation of consciousness. We use our consciousness in the wrong way, and so these defects always appear to be honest and truthful and sincere and important and relevant. But if you are observing yourself through self-observation, you begin to see the mistake of this, that the ego is a conglomeration of half-truths, mistakes, which take on the resemblance of truthful things.
The intellect is really a machine which we have made into something demonic, something negative, because the ego with its intellect uses thought to convince us to do the wrong things. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated in Tarot and Kabbalah that the greatest weapon that the Black Lodge has to pull students from the path is the intellect. So you learn to see the truth of things by looking inside, so that we can distinguish truth from falsehood, not looking for any justifications or repressing anything we see, but simply observing them―letting our heart be the judge.
Question: It's so easy to rush past sitting quietly with the painful expressions of our actions and go pass to the end, all fixed, and my mind shuts off to any work. So how to make the mind shut down and for me to work on myself?
Instructor: Your comment seems to point towards a tendency in many students, which is to repress what we see. We want to shut down the mind because it is too painful. We see faults in ourselves and aggregates and nafs or defects that are so painful to look at, that we want to become numb. We want to repress what we see. But in truth, this work is a work of suffering. It is conscious works and voluntary suffering. We have to learn to be equanimitous even when looking at the worst defects, and facing the worst ordeals that really bring out
our most hidden defects that we thought we never had. We have to learn to develop that equanimity in our daily life. It's not enough just to sit for fifteen minutes a day to clear the mind or to focus on an object of concentration. Those complement our daily work. We reach silence and serenity of mind by working all day―observing the mind, looking at it, and acting as a consciousness, following our conscience, our heart.
If we feed our desires, we suffer. This is a basic law and every religion, especially Sufism and Gnosticism. If we do not create a space in our interior, moment by moment, instant by instant, we don't have the means by which we can really work effectively.
And of course, there is a lot of components that can go into this process. Obviously, our home environment is important―having a clean, stable, perfumed home, such as one of our lecturers explained in a lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense. It's important that we make our home a space for meditation, a place that we can really pray and contemplate and work and aspire to these principles, to fulfill them at whatever level we can, because the more we feed our heart through these disciplines and practices, such as in a lecture I referenced, we can protect our spirituality, but also give ourselves strength and motivation.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I had a couple of questions on my mind. I was kind of wondering about the sacrifice aspect as you were kind of discussing it, and I mean I have ideas about what that could be, but sometimes I feel like just like you were saying, it might be a while until you kind of even gain the clarity and openness of mind to receive information about your vocation. For instance, the way that you should be serving.
So I was wondering if it kind of counts towards the sacrifice that we are doing, that we work on ourselves, that we are always observing ourselves and checking ourselves and foregoing our anger in favor of being attentive to our feelings and trying to examine them and understand them. Is that considered sacrifice or is there some other meaning?
That is one question, and another question I have is a little bit unrelated. But I have been listening to a lot of the Rune Course and on one of them it was talking about the seals, kind of like the way people do the sign of the cross, and how it's not really correct. I was wondering if there's anywhere that it shows how you do that, like a video, because I found it hard to follow the movements that were described in words.
Instructor: Thank you. So as to the first question, it is a tremendous sacrifice to learn to be a decent person when our mind is filled with rage, with anger, with negative qualities, with defects, and we are put in situations in which we feel that we are not benefiting, that we are suffering―and yet, we learn to transform our own pain, to be compassionate to our neighbor. This is a form of sacrifice, a very noble one.
Now, obviously there are levels and degrees to sacrifice for humanity. But I think all that is predicated upon an understanding of how we live ethically in relation to humanity.
I know a lot of us may feel confused or lost in relation to finding a vocation in life. Some of us may be more advanced in our years trying to find new careers, and we often think that sacrifice for humanity means to have some kind of job, and of course, this is important, but the reality is that our vocation is something within the Being. Really, we have many vocations that we can fulfill. I mean, for example, you look at Samael Aun Weor: he was a writer, he was a lecturer, and he was a healer. He did many things that his Being called him to do, and so while we like to look towards some kind of job or vocation to fulfill us, to give us not only income but some kind of psychological and economic meaning, the important thing to remember is that if we were working on our ego, we will be guided to what we must do in our life in our daily existence.
As for the sign of the cross, we do not have a video that shows that, but perhaps that's something that we will develop, especially since we have had a video on the pentagram specifically.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I wanted to ask about some news I heard recently because of COVID-19, the stone of Mecca, that the visiting of that has been canceled. And in that it's an unprecedented event, and I was just wondering if the stone is related to contraction or expansion and if that is causing a lot of grief for people that want to see it. Is that a thing that can be done internally for people?
Instructor: So with the terms contraction-expansion, these apply to our consciousness, and as I provided an overall reference, there are many levels to that. Contraction can mean focus on an object of concentration, a restriction. It also is self-observation, when we feel constricted or our focus is on our internal psychology and what is occurring there. Of course, awareness is the opposite, where it is an expansion of consciousness outward.
Now the important thing to remember is that the stone of Mecca, physically, is a symbol, just in the same way that a cross on a church spire is a symbol. The stone of Mecca is a beautiful representation of the work with the sexual energy―the Kaaba, or the stone of La Vaca, the Cow, which is how you say it in Spanish. But you take the syllables and rearrange them, it is Kabbalah.
So it's a very profound symbol that has a lot of beauty and meaning, but while many Muslims cannot go to perform Hajj or go to the stone of Mecca to perform their pilgrimage, obviously for them that is a cause of great suffering. But the initiates of the mystical Sufi tradition have always known that according to the words of one initiate:
“When you are separate from the Kaaba, it is all right to turn toward it, but those who are in it can turn toward any direction they wish.” ―Bayazid Bastami
Basically, it's a symbol of how there is a great difference between exoteric Islam and esoteric Islam, which is the Gnostic teachings within Sufism, especially. If you are working with your sexual creative energies, your stone, your Kaaba, you are purifying that black stone into a purified white cubic stone as the foundation of your temple―then it doesn't matter if you pray towards the East or the West. It doesn't matter if you travel physically to those places, because really, real pilgrimage for the initiates is in the internal planes. And personally I have been to the Middle East in the astral plane many times. Really our consciousness, when awakened internally, we can see things what the symbols of any tradition represent. You know, those journeys to the Middle East and all the symbols of that tradition are very beautiful, but they are not necessarily meant to be a literal dogma. You know, they are a great reminder of what we must do esoterically, but of course there are levels to religion. If that makes sense.
Audience: Yes, it seems like there's a pointer in that being canceled that we should turn internally toward that stone and instead of relying on the external. Yeah, thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I have experienced my infra-conscious dimensions several times in my dreams, things I would never do or engage in physically. What message is my Being giving me and could this be a part of my past life?
Instructor: Yes, it can. It could be your Being showing you your ego, the things that you need to work on. Remember that there are two moons in the esoteric doctrine. There is the white moon and the black moon, Nahemah and Lilith in Hebrew. These are our representations of the ego that is visible and the ego that is hidden. Now as we awaken more consciousness, as we expand more consciousness and learn to perceive our infra-conscious realms, we begin to understand and perceive things in us, that even if we would not act upon them physically in this life because of our ethics, we still have an element inside that we need to eliminate. So your Being can be definitely showing you your errors that you need to work out.
So here is an example of where your consciousness is expanded. It is a profound awareness of what happened, but also you need to introspect or contract your attention inward in order to reflect on that remorse in your heart, as well as the source of this defect, so you can be free of it.
Question: When we see ourselves psychologically, it's like holding in our breath and indulging in desires gives us air. How should we deal with ourselves and our remorse when we know what we could do or what could and should be done, but do not have the ability to do it? Does knowing what should be done mean we have the ability to do it?
Instructor: This is an important thing to consider. Remorse is a quality of the heart. It is a conscious sentiment. It is very different from shame, from a sense of pessimism, of morbidity, and repression. The ego feels shame and says, “I am a bad person. I did this. I am so horrible! Look at what is in my mind,” and we can become very sour people if we invest our energy into that type of feeling.
Remorse is very different. It is the expansion of the consciousness when we learn to constrict ourselves. We feel that constriction or contraction in our heart, that we have something negative inside, but this is not something that is egotistical. You know, this is not something that is of the mind, because if we just dwell on the mind and not on our heart, on the Essence, we could become very dark people. So this is something to consider.
We have to remember the virtues of the Being. If you feel a lot of suffering for your faults, it is important to be realistic and to meditate on your virtues. So if you feel like you know what you should do and could do, but don't do it or don't have the ability, it's important to really meditate on our virtuous qualities, because oftentimes we adopt a negative skew of things, of reality, because we invest too much energy in our conditions. The reality is that we have a lot of hope, a lot of potential. Don't expect that you're going to be able to do everything all at once, but take the steps that you need, that you know you can do, and to do them.
Fundamentally, the important thing is chastity: save your sexual energy, transmute it. And if you struggle with maintaining this energy, keep trying. As Rumi taught us, "Come, oh wanderers and leavers. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, join us, for ours is not a caravan of despair." We learn to change gradually, but the important thing is that we repent sincerely. That is going to be an entire lecture in this course that we will give in the future, of what repentance looks like, what renunciation looks like as well.
Comment: We talked about being in the moment, but also we don't want to be lost in that moment through fantasy like watching TV. We are in the moment for hours, but at the same time, we are living someone else's dream, whether the writer, the producer, etc. So this is a form of attention, concentration, awareness, etc. But this is being lost in the moment for the consciousness, taking impressions that are stored in the memory.
Instructor: This is a really good distinction to make. So while we are talking about states of awareness and attention in the moment, we have to be very specific about what is the quality of that awareness and attention. You know, we can sit in front of a television, as was stated, and be entirely focused on the theme of the story, the characters in the drama, and yet, it is entirely egotistical, because the ego knows how to direct attention, but it is through desire―the desire to watch and to receive the impressions and sensations of that moment, that perception from the television.
So real awareness, real concentration, is when we concentrate with complete voluntary will. You know, obviously, sitting in front of a television is very passive. It doesn't take any effort. But when you concentrate on a candle or a mantra or really work to exercise the Essence in you, you will find that it is very difficult in the beginning. It is very challenging, because our free consciousness is very weak and needs to be trained. We find that it is very difficult to voluntarily focus our attention on one thing or to be aware of our surroundings in a clear sense. So we have to learn to take impressions of life, but not passively where our mind and personality and ego is active. We have to put those in a state of suspension, of calm, and equanimity, and instead learn to make the consciousness be the one that is active, that is working.
Question: Do Gnostics have fun?
Instructor: Yes, especially the ones that I know, associate and work with. Yes, while we talk about very serious topics, we do have quite a profound sense of humor. If you come to our retreats, you definitely will pick up on that. So hopefully you can and will be able to meet you in person. That would be nice.
Question: Can you speak a little on the ego of self-love and self-compassion?
Instructor: It's important that we have compassion towards ourselves, especially because we are very weak. We make mistakes and we suffer a lot. But it doesn't mean that we are filled with self-love. A lot of times, in current spiritual movements, people often say that you should love yourself, that you should find yourself beautiful. And really, what these philosophies and polemics often do is reinforce self-esteem, which is a defect, an ego.
It is true that we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and to have a conscious love for our soul, but we have to be very merciless towards our ego. You know, the compassionate thing to do for ourselves is to have no mercy towards our defects. If we have a fit of anger, if we have a defect or a vice that emerges and we don't want to identify with it, we have to be very cruel to ourselves, in the sense that we don't identify or give it what it wants, because this is the compassionate thing, the loving thing. The soul knows how to give love towards others without expecting anything in return. Self-love says, “Other people should serve me because I deserve it.”
So our focus in this teaching is to learn how to introspect and to identify those egos of self-esteem that are particularly problematic, which create a lot of drama in different circumstances of life. So remember, compassion is that we serve others out of love for humanity, conscious love, not egotistical love, not complacency with error. Because compassion can be very strong for some people. Sometimes the compassionate thing is to be very severe with a person, but it doesn't mean that we don't love them. It means that we are enacting divine justice if necessary. Or as Shakespeare taught us, "I must be cruel only to be kind. Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind” (Hamlet 3.4.181-182).
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
The role of breath within every religion is profoundly significant. All traditions point towards the power of breathing, which is currently being studied, repackaged, and sold as novelties to new age consumers. The reality is that all meditative traditions from both East and West have emphasized the necessity of spiritual breathing, exercises for the awakening and development of the consciousness.
In many eastern philosophies and traditions, the yogis speak of pranayama: to yoke the life force, the vital winds within our lungs, within the air we breathe, with the specific and express purpose of developing concentration, willpower, and mystical states.
The Sufis are no exception. They not only emphasize how breath is essential to life, moment by moment, they also explain in a very beautiful system how divine powers and union with God is achieved through it. The reality is that they knew how our behaviors, our mind-stream, our moment to moment decisions, affect our speech. Our level of being is expressed in the quality of our words, our breath, our expression.
Speech is an expression. It is an amplification, a modification of energy. There are hurtful and infamous words, as well as words of comfort, reconciliation, motivational power. How we speak determines how we manifest our internal psychology. As the Buddha Shakyamuni taught, “Mind precedes phenomena. We become what we think.” But likewise, we become what we say. This is why within Sufism, these masters state how it is important to guard our breaths, our speech, through ethical conduct.
We have explained previously that this is Shariah, the law, which has nothing to do with punitive laws in Muslim countries. Instead, it relates to conscious ethics within the schools of Sufism, within any religion. Without ethical speech, without using our verb for the benefit of humanity, without being conscious of what we say, it is impossible to enter any spiritual path, known in Sufism as Tariqah, the way to the truth.
As James the Apostle stated, “The tongue is an unruly member,” which like the rudder of a ship, if it is not controlled, creates problems in humanity (James 3). And yet if we learn to guard our speech, our verb, our ways of speaking, we can uplift humanity. Our compassionate intention, magnified by our verb, harmonizes and reunites communities, produces happiness, produces contentment.
This is a fundamental reality within every single meditative tradition, especially Sufism and especially Gnosis. Our breath is essential to spiritual life, and how we use our expression determines our trajectory―where we manifest, where we go within nature. This is why within Sufism, they place such emphasis upon music, upon song, spiritual concert, such as sama in Arabic, the whirling dervishes of the great Mevlevi Sufis.
Vocal prayers―these are integral within that tradition―and they emphasize that our verb harmonizes every aspect of our psychology, if we use our speech for the benefit of others, if we use our breath with ethics, with concentration, with remembrance of the Being.
This is how we submit to God. This is how we communicate with God, because we have to be watchful of our breaths, the inhalation, the exhalation, our communication. All of this adds up. All of this accumulates forces and powers that determine our movement upon the lines of life and being, the present moment.
Mantras and sacred sounds are essential in every mystical tradition, especially in Sufism and Gnosis. If you want to learn more about how mantra, sacred verb, sacred sounds are a crux within our practice, a foundation, you can study The Spiritual Power of Sound, which we have as a lecture on our website under the course, Beginning Self-Transformation.
We can submit to divinity through our words when we recite prayers or mantras. Our speech can elevate our soul, and yet if we use it to curse, to speak vulgarities, to use degenerated language, we disconnect ourselves from the Being. We lose the thread, the continuity of remembrance in the present moment, and therefore we enter condemnation, suffering, and pain. However, by controlling our speech and using the breath for the Spirit, we learn to develop every aspect of our soul, the consciousness.
But how do we know this? When we are born, we take in vital air and life. We cry. The breath is intimately related with our life. We could not exist if we could not breathe. And just as when we are born, how breath enters the lungs for the first time, we cry out in our new existence. This breath initiates both physical and spiritual life.
Breath initiates life in every level. However, while all creatures within the lower elemental kingdoms―amongst animals and plants, utilize and process the breath at their level―there is a type of breath or substance within human and divine beings, within initiates: meditators who have refined themselves through spiritual breathing disciplines.
The Sufis proclaim how the breath is the ultimate medium of divine expression, and when we command it with fidelity to the Being, to the presence of God, Hudur in Arabic, this becomes a perfected instrument through which we master the esoteric work. This is very well known within the alchemical traditions, how we use mantras and breath within alchemy, within a marriage, within tantra in Buddhism.
Farid Ad-Din 'Attar stated, "Nothing is more difficult for the friends of God than guarding their breaths in moments of rapture."
There exists divine states of rapture: joy, plenitude, and illumination, resulting from the conscious use of breath. While it might seem difficult for us as beginners to control our tongue and cease speaking vulgarities, among the friends of God, the saints or prophets, the initiates and masters of meditation, there is nothing more difficult for them than to control their speech when experiencing mystical union.
But why is this? Speech is an act of creation. Our vocal cords and throat are a womb by which the sacred verb is gestated. The more refined our mystical states, the greater our responsibility and power. Vulgar words or incorrect speech, the expression of animal desire, during moments of remembrance and clarity in the heart, is dishonorable, disgraceful, because we are blaspheming in the presence of the Being. As the Quran teaches, truly, “We are closer to you than your jugular vein” (50:16). When we act inappropriately and speak negative words, we go against the will of the Being.
This is a reality that is only comprehensible to meditators, because when the Being is present in us, we feel and perceive a pristine luminosity, superlative awakened consciousness. And it only takes one moment to speak absurdities, to manifest the ego, to lose the bliss of that moment. This is why the Sufis always teach, "You must guard your breaths against God Most High." We have to be careful with our words, since they carry power to transform or condition our states.
The Definition of Breath
But what is the definition of breath according to the Arabic mystical tradition, the Sufis?
“Inspiration, nafas―literally “breath,” also “breathing space” or ample room―is the refreshment of hearts by subtleties from the Unseen.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Notice that we spend a lot of time talking about the ego, animal desire, which the Sufis call nafs, the lower soul. Each ego is a breath. It is a modification of the energy of the consciousness. Each ego, each defect, vice or error, traps the Essence, our true soul or the consciousness. Each ego traps part of, really, what we are: the Essence that must be liberated, which we seek to free through our meditation practices, retrospection meditation, especially. We do so through comprehending and eliminating each ego because the ego is a shell. In Hebrew קְלִפָּה klipah, or the plural קְלִיפּוֹת Klipoth, the world of “shells,” is precisely our inner hell. The ego is hell. It is suffering. It is attachment, craving, aversion, ignorance.
So to free the soul, we have to achieve inspiration. We need to be inspired. This is the state of comprehension, of illumination. In our meditative discipline, we seek to self-observe ourselves from moment to moment, to see the ego in action within our three brains. We have to separate as the free liberated Essence, which is small and in a state of potentiality, in order to observe and activate it, to develop it. We do so by observing how the ego and our different egos, our nafs, manifest in our three brains. When we see the ego for what it is, within self-observation or inner accounting, muhasabah in Arabic, we gather data about ourselves. We begin to be inspired and understand that we are not anger. We are not pride. We are not lust, fear, vanity, gluttony, blasphemy. We are not these things, because we are freeing our Essence and we are perceiving and observing in ourselves that we are not these desires. We are not nafas, the lower soul, the ego.
Samael Aun Weor mentioned that the greatest joy of the Gnostic is the discovery of one of his or her defects. This is inspiration. We are inspired and feel joy that we are not desire. We are not this condition of mind, and therefore, we feel a great change in our level of being. This is the fundamentals of meditation. We have to gather data about our animal mind so that we can work upon its elimination.
But the beginning is, we have to take account of what we are, and for that, in order to give energy to the free consciousness, the Essence, we need energy. The soul or Essence is refreshed through working with the creative energy, the sexual energy.
Our breathing is profoundly and intimately related with sexuality. Our breathing is altered and impassioned during arousal. This is well-known. Now, within people who are filled with lust, couples who join sexually, their breathing becomes inflamed, erratic, quick, impassioned, uncontrolled, and because of their breath, their impassioned breathing, their creative energies begin to flow out of the body. They begin to become inflamed or excited to the point in which that energy is lost, is expelled.
In our studies of meditation and Gnosis, and within the most esoteric hearts of Sufism, they always teach that we have to conserve the sexual energy. You have to control the vital forces, because the semen is the matter that contains the fire and energy that is going to awaken you. Therefore, if your breathing is erratic, uncontrolled, the energies flow from inward to out. This is the opposite of our purposes in meditation. We have to learn to control our breath and the sexual energy, whether we are practicing as a single person or if we are married, especially if we are married, because there is more energy available to a couple, between husband and wife, man and woman.
If you control your breath through profound spiritual aspiration, the creative energy is harnessed. It is redirected. We use our conscious will, our concentration, through our breathing to make the energy flow from out to in, and therefore, not a single drop of that energy or matter is lost. It is this energy, precisely through breath, and these exercises of pranayama or alchemy, that help us to experience the subtle perceptions from the unknown. It is the “refreshment of hearts.”
What are these “subtleties of the unseen,” which Samael Aun Weor explains very beautifully throughout his works? These are visions and awakening from dreams, astral experiences, lucid cognizant experiences within the internal worlds, jinn science, samadhis, ecstasies, direct visions in which we speak to God. Sometimes these subtleties from the unseen are a form of lights, visions in meditation, the perception of energy flowing in us.
Comprehension, inspiration, unfolds through working with will power, by using our will to control our breath, so that we redirect energy. We make it flow inwards so that vital force regenerates our mind. It gives us power in the consciousness. Our soul, the Essence, becomes inspired. What does it mean to inspire, literally? It means to breathe, to take in the air, the spiritual potencies and life and vitality of God into our lungs, and this assimilates through our breathing and lungs within our blood, within our sexual system. When we inhale vital air, the life force is divinity, and when we combine them with spiritual longing, with conscious love, we aspire towards the heights of realization.
But there are levels of work with breath.
“A person who receives inspirations is finer and clearer than a person who is open to mystical states. The person of the momentary inner experience is at the beginning, the inspired person is at the conclusion, and the person of states is between the two.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginning students often have internal experiences that can initiate or inspire them, to enter the path: Shariah, ethics. However, the reality is that such experiences are very fleeting. They are temporary. Through our meditative discipline, mystical states, conscious experiences, astral travels, become more developed, consistent, frequent and penetrative. This is Tariqah, the path, which sometimes can refer to a Sufi school, but also in general refers to the path that the master or the initiate travels within the desert, from oasis to oasis, from ordeal to ordeal within the wilderness of life, the hardships of existence.
Inspired initiates are those who have constant remembrance of divine realities: telepathy, intuition, out-of-body experiences, jinn science, astral projections, polyvoyance, omniscience, abilities common in elevated masters like Padmasambhava, Tsong Khapa, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor. These are the adepts of حقيقة Haqiqah, the truth of معرفة Ma’rifah, knowledge, Gnosis.
The Highest Form of Worship
The Sufis emphasize how controlled breath is the ultimate form of worship. There are levels of practice within Sufism regarding breath work. So we mentioned a little bit about introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of practice within any meditative tradition. In Sufism, this is Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah: truth and knowledge.
“The states are means and inspirations are the end of progressive development. Moments belong to those who have hearts, states belong to those who possess a spirit (ruh), and inspirations belong to the people of inner being (sirr). The Sufis have said, “The best act of worship is to count the breaths along with God Glorified and Exalted.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This quote explains how the three degrees of any meditative tradition relate to the breath, relate to breathing exercises. In the introductory levels, Shariah, we work with counting our breath. This is a very common exercise within Buddhism known as anapana, within Sufism and within yoga. Now we have to remember that each degree of spiritual discipline works with breath in different ways, with greater expediency and impact within the higher levels. But in the beginning we have to learn to use our breath, to start with the basics, and this often comes with exercises of counting your breath, developing concentration, focusing on the inhalation, the retention, and the exhalation of air, and not forgetting what we are doing. Because the problem is that in the beginning, we could be focusing on such an exercise, trying to count to a hundred without forgetting our work, and yet we do forget. It means that our concentration is weak. We don't have enough will established to be consistent. But with practice and consistency, with dedication, we develop stamina.
Counting the breath, mental and verbal mantra recitation, pranayama, helps us to awaken here and now. Because if you are concentrated in the moment, focused on your breath and not forgetting what you are doing, that concentration and willpower will extend to your daily life in your interactions with humanity. This is what we want. We want to have firmness of will, to be able to direct our attention at one thing and not be distracted by anything, whether impressions from the external world or from our own mind―to not forget the Presence (Hudur) and our concentration upon God.
Mystical states belong to intermediary practitioners when they are consistent, when those states are prolonged, deepened, amplified, penetrative, frequent, when there is a continuity there, because in the beginning of our studies, we forget where we are and what we are doing, especially in the physical world, but also in the internal worlds. We may wake up in the astral plane for a moment, with a vision, and then immediately lose consciousness. This has to change. We have to be present moment by moment wherever we are, whether physically or in the astral world. We do this by working with breath and sexual energy.
People who have really established themselves are persistent in meditation and pranayama, yoking the breath. We get experiences and visions, but we have to be dedicated to chastity. We have to be dedicated to sexual purity, because this is the foundation: transforming the sexual energy. This is known as transmutation, to mutate or transform the brute matter of our semen through its conservation and sublimation into energy. This is the alchemical teachings of lead into gold. This is Allah-Khemia within the Middle East: to fuse and cast a metal, to purify the metals of the psyche and make it divine.
We have to transmute the sexual force. This is the meaning of the quote “how people who possess a Spirit,” “states belong to those who possess a Spirit (روح ruh)” or the Hebrew רוּחַ Ruach. The Spirit is “Hu,” as in the Sufi mantras, الله هو Allah Hu, الله هو الله Allah Hu Allah, signifying, “God is,” or “God, Just He!” There are many mantras sung by the Sufi initiates, which you can access online on YouTube. Very beautiful. It is a form of remembrance of God.
But what does it mean “to possess a Spirit?” We emphasize that the Spirit is not the soul, and this is where the study of Kabbalah becomes essential, whether in the Arabic traditions or in the Hebrew traditions, because Arabic and Hebrew shared the same roots. The Spirit is a form of breath, nafs, which is not tainted by ego. It is very pure, supra-divine, but also the Essence is a form of nafs. It is a soul. It is the Essence that is in potentiality that can learn to express the higher truths within. Then there is the egotistical nafs, the lower soul, because the ego is a form of breath. When we speak words of hatred, we feed that hatred, that lower animal egotistical defect, nafs. So there is a lot of diversity in these terms, a lot of dynamic range and we have to use our intuition and the study of Kabbalah, which we will emphasize towards the end, in order to reach clarification.
The Spirit, the soul, and the ego are very distinct. You have to meditate to understand the difference. The Spirit, especially, is not the soul. The Spirit is God, the Innermost, חסד Chesed in Kabbalah. The Spirit is. The soul, the Essence, is developed. It is acquired.
But what does it mean to possess a Spirit? Many people like to think they are spiritual, but they never had any astral experiences in which they actually spoke with their Spirit. We possess a Spirit when we have frequent contact with the Being through inner vision. Spirit is a type of breath. The Being, God, the Spirit, is a very refined, subtle, and spiritual breath, an energy, a force.
I remember many years ago, I woke up in the astral plane. I was seeking to receive teachings from my inner Spirit. So I intuitively felt a call telepathically to descend into the Earth, and after entering a cave within those underground regions, I was in the dark, and I felt the presence of my Being. I felt that terror and that love and longing, which are all very profound and subtle. But I heard my Being breathing. I heard an inhalation and exhalation, very deep, and I felt that terror of love and law that Samael Aun Weor explains many times in his books. My Being was teaching me, “I am breath. I am the Presence (Hudur),” which is a form of vital force, which in Arabic is an ا Alif and in Hebrew is א Aleph, the vital winds, which we can access and experience when we control our own physical and vital breath.
This is a form of inspiration, a divine ecstasy in which my ego was not there. These inspirations belong to the heights. The advanced practices of Haqiqah and Ma’rifah, truth or ecstasy, these are known amongst the alchemists through معرفة Ma’rifah, γνῶσις Gnosis, דַעַת Da’ath, alchemy.
The Sufis emphasize how we must enter our own internal worlds in order to extract wisdom and this is why we practice meditation.
“And they have said, “God created the hearts and made them mines of the understanding of Him. After that He created the secret inner awarenesses and made them a place for declaring the Unity.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What is a mind filled with gold? It is the heart. It is within the heart that we can grasp and understand the nature of our spiritual reality, the Being. So I mentioned that example of an experience where I descended into the Earth and then, in that, metaphorical sense, I entered the mine where I received the teaching of gold from my Being.
It is our heart that can understand the significance of divine things, not the intellect. The intellect is a wild animal, which we control with our breath, with concentration, with willpower.
The doctrine of unity is essential to Sufism and Islam. Unity of divinity is experiential, and we can only declare this with conviction and knowledge through inner experiences.
What is the place of secret inner awarenesses? Samael Aun Weor stated that "God searches them nothingness in order to fill it." This is from The Aquarian Message. So serenity of mind is the basis of illumination. The absence of the ego is the plenitude of the consciousness, the soul. To reach this state, we must remember our Being, here and now. This is the thread or secret continuity of conscious experience―the voice of conscience, the voice of ethics. If we don't follow our inner judgment, following our intuition about how we must behave in life, following our heart, if we don't follow our subtle voice in our conscience, we become lost.
Our heart is the mine of gold. It is the thread that connects us with the Being, which is why the Sufis state:
“Every breath that occurs without the guide of knowledge of God and the sign of Unity emerges from blind compulsion, and it is a dead thing. The one to whom it belongs is accountable for it.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Blind compulsion is of the ego. It is in our three brains. Without self-remembrance, without recalling the presence of our divinity, hudur, without being aware, muhadarah, here and now, without knowledge of that unitary state, that quality of our Being, our words become empty. They truly are vain. This is why in Ecclesiastes, you have the Hebrew term הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ Habel Habelim:
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” ―Ecclesiastes 1:2
הֲבֵ֤ל Habel means “breath.” It is the word for Abel. In the Bible, Abel is a symbol of the soul, the Essence, that is killed by the lower soul, קַיִן Cain, nafs, nafas. And since we kill our soul by acting wrongly moment by moment, we suffer. So these are symbols. These are not literal, historical stories to simply document the past. They are a moral compass for our current, present moment.
We are killing our soul every instant when we speak gibberish, when we are filled with hate, when we lie. That is true vanity. We love ourselves too much at the cost of our soul. That is really the absurdity of the ego.
We are always accountable to the law. Inner judgment, גבורה Geburah in Kabbalah or in Arabic, الْدِّين Al-Din. Din means “religion” or “judgment.” It is the teaching of the Qur’an, the Judgment, the evaluation of humanity. That inner judgment, that inner religion, is inside. It is our conscience. It is our remorse. If we have lost that thread, it means we are very far from initiation. If we don't feel sorry for making mistakes, this doesn't mean we would become morbid, pessimistic, degenerate―people who are basically addicted to suffering, sadistic. It means that we have conscious sorrow and the regret that we made errors, so that we want to change them, so that we make the effort to revise our understanding, whether we made someone else suffer or whether or not we are suffering ourselves.
As beginners, we face this reality. We make a lot of mistakes. We say a lot of stupid things, perhaps in our daily life. We make errors. We struggle to remember God. But for Gnostics like Prophet Muhammad or Samael Aun Weor, they never forget the Being. Such masters have a profound intimacy with divinity, and the Being never leaves them, because they have perfected their work. It is a tremendous responsibility to have God within―to perfectly express and manifest the Innermost, which is why the Sufis state:
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “No ‘breathing space’ is granted to the gnostic because no indulgence can take place with him. But the lover in the early stages (muhibb) must necessarily have some ‘breathing space,’” since were there not a breath for him he would be ruined, because of his lack of capacity.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Again, this is a very deep teaching. This is not something that we are going to reach easily. It is something to understand and know and to work towards. A breathing space simply means a state in which the Being is not completely there. There are degrees and levels upon light. As the Surah of the Light in the Qur’an teaches "Light upon light” (24:35), levels upon levels of being.
The reality is that if God were to enter us without us being fully prepared, we would be annihilated, because that light is so profound. It is the power of a star, of a galaxy, of an infinite. The Being is a force that is tremendous, and therefore God enters and retracts when necessary.
In the beginner, they need time to learn to annihilate the ego, to adapt, because the ego and the Being are incompatible. If they had no room for himself or herself, they would be ruined, because they couldn't handle that energy. They are not capable. But if the ego is fully dead in you, the breath of God is fully manifest and therefore one can speak the words of truth like Mansur Al-Hallaj, which stated "Ana al-Haqq,” (أنا الحَقيقة) which means “I am the Truth!” Really, there was no Mansur there, because the personality in him was dead. There was only the Being. You can read about that in the book called The Narrow Way. It is at the end of that book in a chapter dedicated to this Muslim master (The Passion of Al-Hallaj).
God enters and retracts from the soul. There are states of presence and absence within the initiate. Much in the same way that when you inhale the air or when that air is present in you, it fills your lungs. But when you exhale, the breath is gone. The same with mystical states. This is why mystical states are so synonymous with breathing. They emerge and they pass. Only in those beings who are fully perfected in meditation, have that breath in them eternally. They are immortal.
Chastity: The Basis of Spiritual Breathing
Sublimation of the sexual energy is essential when we work with breath, known as pranayama or transmutation. This conserved energy is the basis by which breathing exercises function and work with efficacy. Spiritual insight is born through chastity. There is simply no way to avoid sexual purity, whether in Sufism or Gnosticism. Without conserving creative energy, the sexual force, and intentionally directing it through breathing exercises, there is no foundation by which to awaken conscious perception, spiritual insight, inner vision.
There are many people and students of religion who practice breathing exercises, but without chastity: conservation and transformation of the sexual energy. But why is this? Why is this damaging to the mind, to be expelling the energies and working with breath? Because it's like trying to pump fuel within an engine when there is no fuel, or like a pump that cannot work because there is no water there.
Your body and your psyche is a beautiful laboratory. It is a marvelous machine that has a specific function, purpose, and intention. It is a cosmos in itself. It is a miniature universe. It is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Our breath works much in the same way that the pistons of an engine function in a car. There is movement and there is direction. There is energy in ourselves when we work with breath. But our breath is only a medium in which we can direct energy, and without the storehouse of sexual creative power, we cannot draw upon anything to illuminate the psyche. Breathing exercises without sexual energy do not produce awakening. It is simple. Breath combined with creative energy is synonymous with light. It is the conduit, the means to energize the Essence. When the Essence has fuel, when that sexual energy is conserved, we can create something really divine. Our vision like in this image becomes cosmic. We perceive things. We develop insight, perceptions, because that energy has to create something. You can create a child physically with it, or you can use it for a very different purpose, a spiritual purpose. And this is what we teach in this tradition. When the Essence has fuel, when it is purified with clean energy, when the vital centers or channels of our internal physiology are flowing with sexual force, we have light.
The Spiritual Light of Breath
This is why the Sufis state very clearly:
“If someone’s share of this light is more perfect, his vision is wiser and his judgment based on his insight is more truer. Do you not see how the breathing of the Spirit into Adam made it necessary for the angels to prostrate before him? For the Most High said, ‘I formed him and I breathed into him of My Spirit, so fall down before him in prostration’ (15:29).” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is how we create a true hum-man, spiritual human being. हुं Hum is Spirit in Sanskrit, or the Arabic هُوَ Hu. It even relates with the Chinese mantra Wu, which we use in our practices in Gnosticism in order to silence the mind.
Let us examine the following quote:
“Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri was asked, “What is the origin of spiritual insight in the one who has it?” He answered, “It comes from the saying of the Most High, ‘And I breathed into him (Adam) of My Spirit’ (15:29).” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This image of the creation of Adam is central not only within Judeo-Christianity, but within Islam and Sufism. The Qur’an often emphasizes the following:
“And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging. Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.” ― Al-Muminun, “The Believers,” Qur’an 23:12-14
A lot of people read that quote within the Muslim tradition and think it only has to do with physical creation, when in reality it is about the creation of the soul. الخليق Al-Khaliq: the Creator in Arabic, best manifests as الودود Al-Wadud: the Loving.
Where else is the ability of God to create a true human being than through the sexual force, through sexual love?
That energy can create spiritual realities in us. We call this solar bodies within esotericism. These are the wedding garments of the soul mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 22). This is libās al-taqwā in Arabic, “the garments of reverence” of the Qur’an:
“O Children of Adam! We have indeed sent down upon you raiment to cover your nakedness, and rich adornment. But the raiment of reverence, that is better. This is among the signs of God, that haply they may remember.” ―Al-A’rāf 26
But the reality is that we like to think we are human beings, true masters of the world, and yet we are animal in reality. This is evidenced by our behaviors. We do not engage in the sexuality of humans, spiritual beings, because in animal behavior is involved anger, pride, lust: the expulsion of the sexual energy to procreate in an animal way, behaviors like vanity, selfishness, greed, etc. To become human, we must renounce animality, which is orgasm, desire.
Chastity is the sexuality of angels. This does not mean abstention from sex. It means purity in sex, whether we are single or married. This is why when Adam was created, mentioned in the Qur’an, the angels prostrated. However, the reality is that nobody likes chastity, which is why also in the Qur’an, Iblis, the Devil, refuse to bow. So this is why religions and Sufism have degenerated, because people ignore the role of chastity. You cannot create life spiritually, you cannot reach inspiration without that force. It is simple.
The creative energy has the potential to develop the Essence. When a married couple who practices meditation, male-female, man and woman, use their sexual polarity in combination with the opposite, they have the power to create as a god. So whether you are married or single, you can work with your breath. Obviously, alchemy is much more intensive and requires study and practice and a lot of wisdom, which is why you can read books like The Perfect Matrimony and The Mystery of the Golden Flower by Samael Aun Weor. But individual practitioners can learn to transform sexual energy through breathing. If you are trained in chastity, you become prepared for the perfect matrimony: to consciously utilize the breath during the sexual act so that the sexual act is transformed. It is sanctified. It is purified.
Obviously, married couples have more energy to work with, but single people can make great progress through breathing exercises and chastity. This is how, as represented by the name Hasan Al-Nuri, we develop the beauty of the soul. We have to remember that names are kabbalistic in Arabic. حَسَن Hasan reminds of إحسان ʾiḥsān: beautiful action, תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth in Hebrew, the human Essence. نوري Nuri is the light, the Being. What is the most beautiful action to develop light? It is sexual purity. This is how light enters into us as the Being breathes the Spirit into us.
Inner Vision and Knowledge of God
Let's examine a few more quotes:
“This statement by Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri is somewhat difficult, so be careful with it. In this mention of the breathing of the Spirit he was aiming to correct those who say that souls are uncreated. The situation is not as it might occur to the hearts of the weak." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is also an essential point in Gnosis. The soul is created. It is not uncreated. The soul is created but the Spirit is. Visions develop as we learn to acquire Essence, or as Jesus taught "with patience possess ye your Souls” (Luke 21:19).
“That to which this breathing (and union and separation) are properly attributed is liable to influence and alteration, which are signs of the transitoriness of created things.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Breath is inhaled, is retained, and is exhaled. The soul can develop in us through that breath, and therefore it is transitory. It is transient. It is impermanent. Only through the complete work of initiation is the soul perfected, where the soul becomes a choir so that the Spirit reflects within it.
"Yet God Glorious and Exalted has chosen the believers for perceptions and lights through which they come to possess insight. In essence, these are forms of the knowledge of God. This is the import of the Prophet’s saying, “The believer sees by the light of God”―that is, by a knowledge and inner vision for which God Most High has specially chosen him and by means of which He has distinguished him from others like him. To call these kinds of knowledge and perceptions “lights” is not an innovation, and to describe that process as “breathing” is not reaching far afield. What is intended is one’s created nature.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as a result of pranayama, transmutation, we could perceive astral visions, experiences, samadhis, lights, sounds, etc. We produce the foundation, the matrix, the womb, the conduit for light to emerge.
The Three Types of Breath
In Sufism, there are three types of breath as we have already mentioned, but we are going to elaborate on what each entails. There is a Sufi initiate by the name of Abdullah Ansari of Herat, who wrote a book called Stations of the Sufi Path, in which he explains some of these principles very beautifully. We previously mentioned the present moment or the metaphysical moment, and in this instant, we are working with breath or learning about breath.
When we study these three types of breath within Sufism, in the Qur’an, within Hebraic Kabbalah as well, we are examining three schools in meditation: introductory, intermediate, and advanced, that structure of Shariah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah and Ma’rifah relate to these principles very beautifully. There is a correlation there which we will touch upon.
Abdullah Ansari of Herat states:
“From the field of the Metaphysical Moment the field of Breath is born. God, the Most High, says, ‘When he recovered his senses he said: Glory be to You!’ (7:143).
“The breath of the master of metaphysical time and moment is that which is untarnished by any matter pertaining to his self or ego. Adepts in spiritual reality have three different kinds of breath: a penitent plaint, an infatuated cry, and a shout of ecstasy.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So in this excerpt these three types of breath relate to adepts, not beginners. Although there is a correlation between the meditative schools of Shariah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah / Ma’rifah. In synthesis, this is ethics, meditation or ecstasy, and the highest, spiritual reality.
The breath of a master of the present moment is not tarnished by ego. We have to aspire to this height. We do so by learning to understand the stages of this path and also the different qualities of the soul.
The Three Souls in the Qur’an
There are three types of soul within the Qur’an. If you have studied Kabbalah in depth, you'll be familiar with Nephesh, Ruach, Neshamah.
So we have been talking a lot about the carnal soul, Nephesh, animality, the ego. Our egotistical breath or soul is passionate, filled with hate, with lust, with desire. We have to transform the lower soul by judging ourselves. We have to blame ourselves. We have to evaluate our psyche through the soul known as Ruach or Ruh in Arabic, Spirit.
The blaming soul, the thinking-emotional soul is that part of our Essence, our consciousness, that evaluates the ego, which critiques, dissects, understands and takes into account the different aggregates of the mind, the different vices and errors of the pluralized "I." This type of blaming has nothing to do with becoming a morbid or pessimistic person. Instead, it has to do with how we judge our lower animal nature so that we could become like the soul at peace, the spiritual soul: a purified, perfected Essence united with Geburah, which is our inner judgment, our divine soul.
The Qur’an speaks about these three souls in different verses:
From Surah 12 verse 53, we learn about the carnal soul.
"Yet I do not absolve my own carnal soul." In Arabic, nafs al-Ammara. "For the carnal soul, indeed, prompts men to evil except in as much as my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful." ―Qur’an 12:53
The blaming soul is known in Surah 75 verse 2:
“And I swear by the self-blaming soul, the self-reproaching soul." ―Qur’an 75:2
And I believe this is in relation to the certainties of resurrection, the heights of the path.
Lastly the Soul at peace piece from Surah 89 verses 27 to 28:
"Oh, soul at peace, return to your Lord, content and contenting.” ―Qur’an 89:27-28
It's important to know these three souls especially as we practice meditation, because we are working to blame ourselves or blame the animal in us, so that we can reach peace.
The Penitent Plaint, Infatuated Cry, and Shout of Ecstasy
So let us return to Abdullah Ansari of Herat's statement:
“The penitent plaint dispels demons, absolves sin and opens the heart.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This relates to a meditators work against the carnal animal soul, our ego. Prayers in sincerity, mantras and invocations, sacred sounds and recitations, when they are performed consciously, purify the mind and reject tenebrous forces. This is why we do prayers like the Conjuration of the Four, the Conjuration of the Seven, and the Invocation of Solomon. These mantras are prayers which you can perform before you meditate, helping to dispel demons, helping us to absolve ourselves from sin. It means to reach a state of mind that is opened and prepared for meditation. We open the heart when we use our breath in this way. You can study a lecture given on our website called Basics of Spiritual Defense, in which these prayers are explained and referenced.
So it is good to pray and conjure, to defend our home, to prepare environment for meditation, so that we can transmute, but also you can perform these prayers before we practice alchemy. This establishes a good energetic environment in which we can practice effectively, with safety.
This master continues:
“The infatuated cry of the attracted person purges the love for the world, sweeps material causality away, and causes one to become oblivious of creation.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This relates to the work with the blaming soul, in which we are judging ourselves―Ruach, the thinking-emotional soul. This blaming soul teaches us to renounce worldliness, to renounce egotism, to renounce attachment to negative things. It sweeps away material causality in the sense that our negative behaviors, our egos, which perpetuate addiction, suffering, and confusion, are removed. We blame ourselves through inner accounting, retrospection, meditation, as we explained in our last lecture and our course on Gnostic Meditation.
How do we become oblivious of creation? We sit on our home. We relax our body. We work with breathing exercises to transmute our sexual energy. We suspend our senses. We concentrate within. We go into our internal worlds to gather information. Without breath and transmutation, we cannot fully relax the body or achieve stillness and quietude of mind. So in this type of meditation, we abandon the world. We become oblivious to the world. We ignore material causality. We become attracted to spiritual things, attracted to the breath of God, so that we reach that luminosity and concentration, that joyfulness of Essence and Being that inspires us, so that we can go deep and begin to work on our mind.
Lastly, this is very profound:
“The shout of ecstasy of the raptured pierces the soul, sets the heart athirst and burns away the veils.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So the soul shouts with joy when experiencing states without ego. We feel that luminosity and amplification of the Essence. This occurs in the internal worlds, when we tear away the veils of the conditioned mind which prevent us from communicating with the Being. These are astral visions, astral samadhis, and even beyond. These experiences with God set us on fire, spiritually. Our longings are fulfilled and they are increased at the same time. We can aspire towards more light.
Conclusion: Ham-Sah Transmutation
Lastly we will conclude with a statement by Samael Aun Weor and a practice you can use to help you experience these internal states, some of which we have mentioned. He states in a lecture called The Transmutation of Sexual Energy: Part IV:
“…there is a profound relation between one’s sexual forces and one’s breathing, so that when both are duly combined and harmonized, they bring about fundamental changes in one’s physical and psychological anatomy.” –Samael Aun Weor, “The Transmutation of Sexual Energy: Part IV”
On the right we have the Caduceus of Mercury, a famous symbol within medicine. It is a structure in our back. The middle of this diagram is the spine, in which two energetic serpents or currents, vital energies, positive and negative, flow from the sexual organs up to the brain. These wings are the wings of our spirituality that blossom within our spinal column, and that allow us to have internal visions.
We have to work with that energy of sex that rises from our left and right gonads, whether the testicles or the ovaries. Both masculine and feminine forces, positive and negative, solar and lunar energy, rise from the organs of sex up to our mind. And we even have currents that run from our brain to our heart.
A very simple practice you can do is Ham-Sah, as explained in the lecture by Samael Aun Weor that we have referenced here. You sit in a quiet place. You relax. You let your body settle. You suspend your senses. As you are praying to your inner, divine Being, your Innermost, your Divine Mother, Al-Buraq within Islam and Sufism, you pray and ask that this energy can rise within you to illuminate your mind. When you inhale your breath to your nostrils, you imagine, in your mind's eye, the creative energies as light rising from your sexual organs, up the spine, in the form of this image of the caduceus. Imagine these energy circulating in the form of two entwined serpents like the holy eight within Kabbalah, and that this energy and light illuminates the mind. You want to mantralize internally, silently, HAM, prolonged like this:
You do this silently in your mind, when you are inhaling and bringing the energy to your intellect, your brain. And then, imagine that energy descending into your heart with the mantra: Sah!
This mantra Sah, you pronounce externally, vocally. Ham is internal and silent, prolonged. Sah is short, vocal, and exhaled. It is gentle. It is short. You want to pronounce Ham prolonged and internally, in relation to your inhalation, so that you bring the energy from sex to your brain and that you retain it, profoundly. Let that energy soak within your mind, illuminating you, giving you vitality and force. And then, exhale to the heart: SAH!
You do this because our energy is normally―because of our bad behaviors―flowing from inward to outward. You want to reverse this flow by making your emphasis on Ham, to bring the energies inward and up, but you also want to bring them to your heart through Sah.
The mantra Ham is solar, is elevated. It is prolonged. But the mantra Sah is short, lunar, and directed to the heart.
I have even seen YouTube videos of Sufis performing Ham-Sah when doing dances. So this practice is not only within the Gnostic tradition, but has been practiced by initiates for centuries, millennia. It is a very ancient work.
Now there are some variations within the Sufi tradition where they pronounce mantras such as الله هو Allah Hu. The mantra ال Al is masculine, solar, relating to the serpent Pingala. Pingala is the solar positive serpent on this Caduceus of Mercury. لا La is feminine, the lunar energies of Ida, the left serpent on this diagram of the spine. Solar and lunar, positive and negative, form الله Allah: the God. And then هو Hu, the Spirit rises within our spinal column when we awaken sparks of the divine fire Kundalini.
As a single practitioner, you can perform this practice to wake sparks of Kundalini, the Spirit. This can grant you experiences and insights, but obviously married couples will have much more light when performing Ham-Sah if they are sexually connected. In the Sufi tradition also, they turn their head from right to left when they pronounce لا إله إلا الله La Ilaha ila Allah (“There is no god but God,” or الله هو Allah Hu, الله هو Allah Hu, because ال Al is masculine relating to the right, and then they turn their heads to the left relating to لا La. Together, this forms الله Allah. And to the breath, they are working with Spirit, هو Hu. So the Caduceus of Mercury is referenced in that practice, but also many initiates are practicing Ham-Sah. Very beautiful and profound.
So at this point I invite you to ask questions. You are welcome to type them into the chat box and towards the end, we could even take some questions via unmuting people.
Questions and Answers
Question: You mentioned there is a difference between the Spirit and the soul. How does the consciousness play into this? Can you elaborate?
Instructor: So the Spirit is the Innermost, the Being, our inner God, and the soul is our Essence, the consciousness. We have to learn to develop the consciousness and to create it. So that quote we mentioned from one of the Sufi masters explains how the soul is a created or a transitory thing. It has to be developed and perfected, initiated and expanded. The Spirit already exists. He is immutable and divine. And the reality is that in order to know the Spirit we have to first develop soul.
The soul is like a mirror. When you polish the mirror through dhikr,remembrance of God, you can reflect the perfect image of the Spirit in you. So consciousness has to be developed and purified. I believe Rumi even said that we are like a mirror, and yet, how could we develop purity if we resist every rub? Because our mirror, our consciousness is egotistical, filled with impurities, with mud, with obscurations. Those rubs or polishings of the heart have to do with our practices, but also difficulties in life in which we are confronted with our own egos, that we must observe and comprehend and work upon. In this way, we begin to polish our heart so that we can reflect divinity more and more.
Question: What would you recommend to improve consistency and daily practice against the ego?
Instructor: Personally when I have struggled against my own mind, I take time to study scripture. I like to balance my meditations with study of the doctrine. We have to be inspired in our work, and sometimes we become clouded and even negligent. We don't do what we need to do. Sometimes we don't work effectively, daily, upon the ego, because we are too morbid or sad or negative. This is why Samael Aun Weor mentioned that “when you feel a lack of inspiration, when you suffer in your work, when you struggle against your mind, when you have doubt and confusion, study my books, study my writings.”
I also like to read the Qur’an to be reminded of what I must do. You know, you can read any scripture, really, that inspires you and hits you within your Essence, because that is the language of God.
Some people have a predisposition towards certain religions and traditions. Obviously, the best thing is to read writings from Samael Aun Weor, because he is the most clear. But you know, we have to really drink the wisdom of many traditions. For me, I like to read the Qur’an when I struggle or if I feel like I am vacillating or vegetating, becoming stagnant. It is a scripture that has a lot of power, speaks with a lot of force, to remind us of what we must do, what we must change.
You can also listen to good music, especially music that really reflects divine principles, and you know, we have given a course on chicagognosis.org called The Secret Teachings of Opera. One of my favorite operas is Turandot, in which you see the whole drama of initiation portrayed with a lot of force and beauty. Watching those operas and listening to divine concert, say the Sufis, is essential to the life of any initiate. You know, that music can really inspire you when you understand the message.
Question: Breathing seems to calm the mind, but when caught up in an argument, I forget to breathe. In the midst of an attack, what practices do you recommend?
Instructor: It's an excellent question. Samael Aun Weor answered this question in one of his books, Introduction to Gnosis. In one of his chapters he explains how if you are overwhelmed in a fit of anger, if you are filled with rage, if you become tense, breathe. Inhale and relax. Inhale through your nostrils count to six. Hold your breath for six seconds, and then exhale for six seconds. Obviously, if you are in an argument, you can take a moment to say, “Look, I need to take a break for a little bit” and to be polite and say, “I need to step away for a few minutes. Please give me some time." So that we don't seem offensive to the person we are speaking to, because arguments and heated debates are the result of ego.
Samael Aun Weor said that debates are satanic, because people are fortifying the carnal soul, Nephesh, the animal mind. Just take a minute to just breathe. You know, obviously that is the first step. If you forget to breathe, remember to breathe. That is the first half of the battle, remembering to do what you need to do, and inhale―count the six, hold for six seconds, exhale for six seconds. If you are breathing really profoundly and you are relaxing, closing your eyes if you can, sitting down is best, your anger will subside. I have used this many times. It's a very effective work. Then you can go back to your colleague or friend or family member who you are arguing with and you can approach that situation with clarity, not with rage.
Question: Is it expected that students will ebb and flow continuously from experiences or cognizance of God?
Instructor: Yes, this path is a process. We develop experiences gradually. Sometimes there are periods of light and there are periods of darkness. This is paralleled in Hindu cosmology and an even Gnostic cosmology when we talk about Mahamanvantaras and Mahapralayas, cosmic days or great cosmic days and great cosmic nights. Because the breath of creation flows, is always in fluctuation, is never static. The same way, our experiences come with greater lucidity and penetration, but also consistency during periods of activity. But sometimes we have to face what is known as the dark night of the soul in which we don't see anything.
This is a necessary test for the disciple, a very painful one, which Beethoven composed and reflected upon in his Moonlight Sonata―very beautiful piece of music that reflects the sorrow of the initiate when under the moonlight, the darkness of the night. But of course, the sun emerges victoriously if we conquer those dark periods. Light returns. So there is always a flow of forces in us. So the necessary thing is to be patient, to wait and to pray, to be consistent, to continue practicing.
Question: I have learned a breathing exercise where you breathe in with the nostrils, hold the breath, then exhale through the mouth. Is this a form of pranayama other than Ham-Sah?
Instructor: Yes. Samael Aun Weor mentioned that practice in one of his books―a very simple exercise. You can imagine the energy is rising into your mind, and then when you exhale, sending it to your heart. But you want to breathe in through your nostrils. Hold the breath and retain the energy, and then exhale through your mouth. There are a lot of different forms of pranayama, and that is a very simple one.
But I recommend that if you are practicing a particular form of pranayama that you do so with fidelity to the instructions. This is just a general guideline for anyone practicing these exercises, because I know sometimes practitioners will like to mix pranayamas―for example―the Egyptian Christic Pranayama in The Yellow Book with other exercises. The important thing to remember is that each pranayama has its function. So the one that you mentioned is very simple, it doesn't involve a lot, but it is very effective. The same with any pranayama exercise in the books of Samael Aun Weor. So be true to the instructions, and you'll get the results you want.
Question: Is the blaming soul Sophia, trapped like Master Samael says in his book The Gnostic Bible: The Pistis Sophia Unveiled?
Instructor: There is a relationship there. Sophia means “wisdom.” Pistis Sophia is the power or wisdom power of the liberated soul. In this path in which Sophia rises to the Pleroma, to the heavenly states that she had lost, she has to repent. So remember in that scripture and even the commentary that Master Samael gives, it is explained how Sophia needs to repent, I believe thirteen times. This is the blaming soul in action, in which we have to confront ourselves and take responsibility for the carnal soul, for the animal, because once you have killed the animal in you, the ego or lion-faced powers that try to steal the light of Sophia, you can begin to extract light and to drive the forces of the left and the right, positive-negative, male-female, Adam-Eve, Pingala and Ida, solar and lunar. A lot of beautiful relationships there.
Question: Where can we read about the dark night of the soul? Is that an entire lifetime?
Instructor: In relation to the dark night of the soul, there are periods in which we have to face a lot of darkness, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of pain. For some beings it can be many years, others, months and sometimes even longer. You know, it comes to mind some particular people such as Tchaikovsky or Beethoven. These masters depicted in their music very profound states of suffering that they encountered because they were great initiates, especially in the past and that they had fallen.
Sometimes these periods extend over many years, and the only way to emerge victoriously from them is with patience. It is with serenity. It comes to mind actually The Three Mountains by Samael Aun Weor where he talks about a few points in his own path and his experience in which he suffered a lot because he made mistakes, even times where he was cut off from astral experiences because he needed to pay karma. So that is one text that comes to mind that you can think about. You can also look at our glossary on gnosticteachings.org regarding the spiritual night.
Question: Have you any tips for overcoming an overactive mind? It seems when I am mindful in a day, I can almost guarantee that the next day some things may happen that would stimulate my mind and I would constantly be replaying things in my mind or just overthinking.
Instructor: Overcoming an overactive mind requires not repressing it, neither feeding it. We have to learn the path of balance. Breathing exercises like pranayama are great for having energy to calm the mind. Runes are exceptional, deep prayer in which we concentrate fully on our inner God to ask for illumination.
Personally, I like to do mantras if my mind becomes agitated. You can mentally pronounce those mantras or prayers many in our tradition are very beautiful such as O AO Kakof Na Khonsa:
This is an Egyptian mantra relating to the Divine Mother―the serpent Kundalini, Isis. Or Om Masi Padme Hum:
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Swaha, which you have to pronounce prolong, each syllable, very long such as this:
That mantra is exceptional for silencing the mind. Chant it mentally if you are active in the day, but if you are at home, you can pronounce it out loud. It is a very powerful mantra for silencing the mind in a genuine, conscious way.
Question: Is the Jesus prayer made use of in the Gnostic tradition? There seems to be some alignments between Eastern Orthodoxy, Sufism, and Gnosticism. It seems of all the mainstream Christian religions, that Eastern Orthodoxy would be the closest especially and their understandings of the Theosis and the Jesus prayer as the path towards that communion with God.
Instructor: We have many prayers that we use, you know, the Jesus prayer and many other prayers from different traditions. They are all valid. We use a lot of prayers from many faiths in our own daily discipline in accordance with our needs and disposition. So if that's something that resonates with you, you can use it.
Obviously we have certain prayers and mantras that we use more than others, such as the Conjurations of the Four, the Seven, the Invocation of Solomon, and many others that are really effective for specific purposes. But in terms of prayers, ways of communicating with God, those are as infinite as the different cultures that have existed in the world. They are as diverse as all the different religions our humanity has received. They are all very beautiful and necessary. Work with those prayers that resonate with you and that inspire your heart.
You can also look at gnosticteachings.org as well as a book called A Gnostic Prayer Book, which we have available on gnosticteachings.org, the store, where you can access and see many prayers from different faiths, whether from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sufism, etc.
Question: When married, what is the best way to prepare to enter alchemy? Are there specific mantras or processes which must be or are preferred for the practice?
Instructor: The best way to prepare for alchemy is to be chaste when you are single, to spend a lot of time practicing the three factors. If you are not trained in your own body to transmute, when you are married and without that training of knowing how to circulate those forces, it is going to be very difficult. It's difficult enough when you practice for many years as a single person and then you finally meet your spouse.
Prepare your body, your mind, and your heart through pranayama, Ham-Sah, and transmutation, primarily because the body is acculturated to fornication. We have to retrain it to work properly, to transmute the energies and make them flow from outward to inward.
You are best prepared for alchemy when you annihilate lust. Obviously, there is going to be degrees in this, and nobody is perfect in the beginning, especially when you are beginning with alchemy. However, the more chastity you have established in yourself through the death of desire, by learning to circulate energy in you, and learning to act compassionately for humanity, the better prepared you will be for the rites of marriage. If you really want to protect and defend your love for your spouse and to really make it strong and prepared for when you do meet your partner, develop conscious love here and now, altruism or Bodhichitta in Buddhism.
You can use any mantras to help you with that process. We have many mantras for transmutation. I suggest you work with those that best help you and your needs, whether they are certain runes like Olin, the seven vowels, the mantra S, Ham-Sah, Egyptian Christic Pranayama, and retrospection meditation, especially. Meditate on the death of your ego. Annihilate your ego, because the more selfless you are and developed you are in your level of being, the more love that you can give to your partner when you do meet that person, the more you can receive.
Question: Would you speak on the relationship between breath and mantra when the mantra is internal versus out loud?
Instructor: Some initiates like Swami Sivananda explained that there is more power in silent mantras, primarily because when you are mantralizing internally, silently in your mind, you are making your mental body, your astral body, to vibrate. It's like working from the inside out. But there is also a necessity in our path and process to work from the outside in, and relating to our body and our internal physiology as well.
When we work with pranayama and breath, we are training our physical body to obey, to obey our Being, to obey our Spirit. Because unfortunately most of us, really everybody, has a long history with fornication. That is the common trend, and we need to learn to train our body to transmute. The best way to do it is through pranayama. Now as you are working to circulate energies in your body, make them flow from outward to inward through your breath, you begin to establish a conduit that makes it easier to access deeper internal states. In this way, internal mantras become very effective.
Now both are necessary. It's good to pronounce mantras out loud, to vocalize, to pray, to charge our physical body with energy such as with the runes. This is very essential. But also we have to learn to train our mind internally. So I suggest that you combine both internal and external breathwork, mantra recitation. Work from the inside out and the outside in, so to speak. This is a very comprehensive way to practice. Now, some instructors have mentioned that we have to be practicing mantras or pronouncing mantras moment by moment, each day. Now, obviously if you are in a crowded area or at work, you are not going to be able to pronounce mantras out loud without drawing attention to yourself. So you can just pronounce those prayers and mantras mentally, and they will have strong effect―if not even more than if you are vocalizing, because it requires a lot of concentration and willpower to be present in that state.
Question: Does breathing just out of the left or right nostril symbolize lunar or solar breath?
Instructor: That is a good question. Now in relation to breathing exercises, especially pranayama or interchangeable nostril breathing, the yogis of India have associated certain energetic currents relating to your left or right nostril. Now, for men and women this is reversed.
The left side of the body is relating to the lunar energies and the right side to the solar energies in relation to men. But in women, this is reversed. And so breathing through your left or right nostrils activates those different gonads, whether male or female, testicle or ovary. You can read a little bit more about that breathing science, especially in the book Kundalini Yoga by Samael Aun Weor, where he explains a lot of these principles in a lot of detail.
Question: I saw a flaming three in my mind's eye once. What can that mean?
Instructor: Numbers are kabbalistic. They are symbolic. They relate to principles and forces in nature. We gave a course called The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah, which explain the principles of the sacred tarot, and the number three relates with creation, spiritual and physical. And obviously fire can relate to illumination, the sexual energy that is inflaming the third eye and creating that force. I advise you to study that course if you really wish to understand the meaning of numbers, how they apply to our physical life.
Question: Can you explain Al-Qushayri's quote: “A person who receives inspiration is finer and clearer than a person who is open to mystical states”? Are there dangers trying to interrupt inspiration?
Instructor: So in relation to the three schools of meditation within Sufism, or three stages of meditation within esoteric Islam, you find that the intermediate path is relating to people with mystical states, who have experiences, and inspiration is finer and clearer because it is the culmination of the path. It is the highest stages: Ma’rifah / Haqiqah, knowledge and truth. Now, those inspired states and samadhis are very refined and clear, because there is no ego there, and therefore, we become deeply inspired by what we perceive. In that state there is more understanding, because you realize and comprehend the meaning of the messages you receive in the internal planes.
Now, a person who is open to mystical states has some different meanings to that. Obviously, there could be positive and negative states, and oftentimes, what many people call mystical states in this day and age, oftentimes, is a result of degeneration. Some people like to mix meditation with drugs. Or people who are very imbalanced mentally may have experiences, but not from the consciousness, but rather in the hell realms. We can have mystical states as we are developing our meditative practices and working with the three factors of the revolution of the consciousness, with chastity and transmutation. Of course, those will be positive and gradual, because there are deeper insights that we receive more consistently and frequently the more we work with these practices, and don't mix these exercises with impure things such as drugs or alcohol or psychedelics, which we are strictly against.
But obviously, a person who is developing more and more, is consistent with their practices, will fluctuate between objective and subjective states. This is primarily because awakening is gradual. Nothing in nature takes leaps. Our practices develop the soul much in the same way that a tree grows from a sprout. It doesn't occur overnight. It doesn't appear instantaneously. It happens gradually over time. But obviously towards the end, we have greater clarity because we have less ego. So there are degrees and degrees of light there, even mentioned the Qur’an: "Light upon light” (24:35).
Question: I had a question on the Solfeggio frequency. So when we are doing, intoning mantras, and intonations, is there a linkage with the Solfeggio frequencies? I have been reading up on certain frequencies, that they have certain impacts on you know, the physical body and also spiritual bodies. And then the second part of that question is that there are several apps out there that actually, we can actually use those frequencies. Would you recommend using any of those things or is that or is that something that shouldn't be used?
Instructor: There is also a lot of talk in spiritual movements about certain vibrations and sounds. Even Samael Aun Weor mentions in some of his books how certain mantras have to be performed at a certain tone. But whether or not they have the specificity of certain hertz or specific wavelengths of frequency or vibration, that might be a little bit too specific than what is necessary, because I think some people might try to go into too much depth with something that is actually very simple.
Mantras can be intoned in certain ways, and the important thing is that you will learn those intonations and ways of expressing those mantras, such as from recordings from instructors or people who have experience with those practices themselves. You can learn more about that in the lecture called The Spiritual Power of Sound in our course called Beginning Self-Transformation. We talked about in detail what the six components of mantra recitations are. You know, we don't the time to explain all those in depth here, but part of it is intonation, which it's important, because some mantras have a certain song to them―ways that they were expressed by the guru who taught them. When you sing a note a certain way and intonation, you invoke energy. So, in that sense, it is important, but not necessary to get into hertz and specific mathematical frequencies. It is much simpler than that.
Audience: Okay. Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: When fire burns or a plant grows, they interact with the air. Are they breathing on their level? One could say that the breath is in the skin in all organs. It seems like it would be good to both practice controlling that which is within us and breathing from the context that all things are breathing and we are merely a part of that.
Instructor: Yes, and this gets into many of the metaphysical aspects of Hinduism and even Sufism, especially, how the breath of God creates all existence and creates all things. All creatures in nature within the different elemental Kingdoms breathe. Even minerals breathe and the earth itself breathes energy. Obviously with plants and animals and humanoids, this is much more complex, where we have lungs and organs and cells that allow us to take in oxygen. But with the minerals, they too are a form of breath. They circulate the electromagnetism of the earth, different parts of the globe. So all that is very important, especially.
It is important that we learn to develop our breath, our practices with pranayama in a spiritual sense, because notice that in accordance with evolution of souls, transmigration of souls, we gain greater complexity and abilities to assimilate, transmit, and retain that force in different ways. So obviously a plant is more complex than a mineral. But animals also are more complex than plants, and humanoids are even more complex machines than animals.
But we have to remember that through this evolution of breath, breathing and energy, that the humanoid is not the end. There instead is a spiritual illuminated way of being, and that the true human uses breath like a God. And this is where we digress from many movements in the world today, which basically deify animal desire. People are teaching that you can use your breath and your voice to communicate anger and hatred and violence. So instead, we learn to use the breath for spiritual purposes through prayer, through mantra.
And yes, our skin does assimilate air and many organisms can assimilate energies through the skin. This is why alchemy is so interesting, because the sense of touch is the most sensitive organ or sensitive faculty of the human being. In alchemy, we have to learn to control our touch, our sight, our hearing, our smell, our taste. We have to be a master of our human machine. So yes, while all things are breathing life, they do so on their level, whether mineral, plant, animal, humanoid. But in accordance with the human kingdom of the masters, the angels, we have to learn to breathe as a God, to transmute the sexual energy as an Elohim. So there are degrees. There are levels.
Question: Have you ever known anyone who is practicing chastity and meditation, etc., but seems to be degenerating rather than progressing? It seems I am getting less and less conscious as time goes on even though I am trying. There are external things interrupting me though.
Instructor: Some people, really all people, struggle in their own way. We all try to apply the teachings at our degree, with chastity, especially in meditation, and if we feel that we are regressing and not progressing, we have to re-evaluate what we are doing.
For some people, it can be as fundamental as not conserving the sexual energy, even if only in the mind. Because some people can be practicing sexual abstention, not letting out the sexual force at all, and yet can be experiencing lustful dreams or lustful states of mind in which that energy is being misdirected. So if we feel that we are not progressing, we have to be sincere―and everybody goes through this―where we feel that we are not really going forward. The solution is to take time to reflect on our practice, to evaluate what is it that we are doing well and what is it that we are weak in.
Obviously, if there are external things that are interrupting your practice, that is something you need to take into consideration, because if you feel that there are certain influences in your life that are bringing you down, it is important to renounce them, to not give them space in your life, whether it be certain people that could be draining you, perhaps, bad environments, negative relationships, certain behaviors. Even if not just fornication, there are ways that we waste energy, and if you have no energy, it is impossible to change.
So be sincere. We all have to be sincere in this path, to take the time to always reflect on what we are doing with efficacy and what we are failing in, so that we can, with a state of remorse and comprehension, change those things that we can and to celebrate those victories that we do have. It is unrealistic just to focus on the negative. I know a lot of people sometimes get very overwhelmed by the ego and like to concentrate on the negative at the exclusion of reality. So reflect on your virtues, but also take the time to figure out what things in your life must change.
So I thank you all for coming.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
In our studies of meditation, we are deeply concerned with levels of being, degrees of consciousness, which, according to the 14th Dalai Lama, is infinite. A very famous Sufi initiate by the name of Abd al-Karim al-Jili, he wrote a book called The Universal Man, Al-Insan al-Kamil. He stated, “The journey to God is short. The journey in God is infinite.”
While this work teaches us how to reunite with divinity, with the Truth, the reality is that upon entering religion, reunion, there are qualities of knowledge, of understanding, which are within the divine. It is infinite. Consciousness has the capacity to expand to an infinite degree, and different traditions teach and map these levels of consciousness in different ways, in varying levels.
The conservative Piscean traditions, in which the different doctrines and scriptures originated within the past 2,000 years, speak about these levels of being, these levels of consciousness, in a very abstract manner. The writings are not very explicit and require a lot of experience and initiation from a teacher or a sheikh, a guru, a master, but times are different. We now live in an era related to the astrological influence of Aquarius.
Pisces was noted for its conservatism. The knowledge had to be earned, and only when practitioners would meditate for many years, would they be allowed to really understand and be taught the heights of their spiritual tradition, and in Sufism this is no exception.
Sufism pertains to the Era of Pisces, and while many manuals of writings were given in that tradition, a lot of that wisdom is very veiled, and only understood by initiates: people who are awakening their consciousness, not only physically, but in the internal planes―whether through dream yoga, astral projection. But whether or not those abilities are developed in us we can begin to appreciate and understand, to approach these levels of consciousness, which the Sufis call stations.
A station is a place that people travel to, where people arrive, where people leave. The levels of being are described as places or stopping points in ascension towards the Truth. The highest station among the Gnostics is Marif’ah. It is knowledge of divinity. It is permanent self-realization. It is the full incarnation of God in the soul: the path of resurrection which Samael Aun Weor speaks about in his book The Three Mountains. These degrees or stations of the path as taught by the Sufis, were explicitly provided by Samael Aun Weor in The Three Mountains.
So in this lecture we will talk about how meditation applies to the science of the Tree of Life, the Tree of Being, the levels of being, which is a map to understand where we are and where we must go if we truly want to obtain religion, yoga.
The levels of Being or these stations, these degrees of knowledge, of development, are made explicit within the writings of the Aquarian knowledge, and I’ll read for you a quote from the book The Aquarian Message by our teacher Samael Aun Weor. The chapter is from Internal Meditation:
“The seven degrees of ecstasy through which the mystic reaches the perfect state of the soul are described in the school of Sufism. The school of Sufism teaches about ecstasy. The state and secret of our level is revealed in Sufism, because this is the interior state of life in God.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Aquarian Message, “Internal Meditation”
So what is ecstasy? It comes from the Latin ecstatuo [Greek ἔκστασις ekstasis], “to stand outside oneself.” It is our psychological state that we cultivate as we learn to remove the ego and to go beyond our level of being, to become something more, something profound.
Samael Aun Weor writes in Revolutionary Psychology, “What is our level of Being? We must know where we are if we wish to ascend to a higher level.”
Our psychological state determines everything, which is why meditation is so fundamental for change. Meditation is precisely the science, the art, the philosophy, the religion of understanding our own conditions of mind, but also our virtues, our qualities of soul. This is much more important than any outward adherence in a group, or participation in a school. While schools are necessary, they provide clarification of how to practice meditation. They also inspire us to work, to want to change, but a group itself is not a defining factor of whether one will reach the goal.
Our work is our own. In the Piscean era, and even today, the Sufi schools are very conservative. They only taught the most profound doctrine, the most profound sciences, to those who have proven themselves under the jurisdiction of a teacher, but of course in the Aquarian Era “Initiation is our own life intensely lived with rectitude, and with love” (Samael Aun Weor), which is why even Bayazid Bastami, a Sufi initiate, stated the following, “I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause, and I didn't find a single step of progress with them. Then I said, ‘Oh Allah! What is the way to you? And Allah said, ‘leave yourself and come.’”
Meaning: leave behind the ego. Eliminate the ego. Strive and fight in yourself, work on yourself. Abandon our previous level of being, what we are now, to become something new, and transformed
The Levels of Being: Stations of the Sufi Path
These levels of Being are depicted by Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, and it is this image, this map of consciousness, this diagram of divinity that is missing from the teachings of the Sufis, and even many other traditions, because the Tree of Life was not explained openly by the Muslim masters, but it is an essential diagram or graphic that elaborates and explains the stations of the Sufi path.
Ten spheres, ten stations, with all of their multiplicity, their dimensionality, their infinite qualities―this diagram teaches us where we are in our meditation, and therefore those schools that leave aside the Tree of Life do not understand meditation in its heart, because we cannot understand where we are, what our level of being is, where we must go, if we do not understand the Kabbalah.
קבלה Kabbalah comes from the Hebrew, קבל Kabel, meaning “to receive.” It also means “tradition,” the secret teachings of the initiates. When we meditate, we investigate, we analyze, we experience, we then receive new knowledge. We understand the depths and intricacies of the soul, and the path that leads out of suffering.
But in order to do that we have to abandon what we are. As Abu Sa’id, a Sufi initiate, stated,
“Wherever the delusion of your selfhood appears―there’s hell. Wherever you aren’t―that’s heaven.” ―Abū Sa’īd in Ibn Munawwar: Asrār at-tawḥīd, ed. Shafī‘ī-Kadkanī, 299
The ego is the problem. The ego is the obstacle. The sense of “I,” “me,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I desire,” in itself is called the tree of death, in Islam. شجرة الزقوم The tree of Zaqqum, which in Arabia is an actual tree whose leaves are very bitter to taste, became a symbol of the infra-dimensionality of the ego: the subconsciousness, the unconsciousness, the infraconsciousness.
So we have to abandon our own pride, fear, laziness, lust, defects, nafs in Arabic, the lower soul, in order to obtain heaven. But this quote is very interesting. It says that “Wherever you aren’t―that’s heaven.” This does not mean that there is a complete nihilism there, that we cannot experience heaven. It depends upon our level of being. Are we attached to our negativities, our hatreds, our self-esteem? Or do we set that egotism aside, withdraw the senses, and awaken the consciousness, the soul, so that we can experience the Being?
Remember that this map, this Tree of Life, represents us―who we are, who we really are―not our culture, our language, our name, but divinity.
Stations are precisely the degrees of consciousness that we develop in ourselves through work. These are known as initiations. And if you study the writings of Samael Aun Weor, such as The Three Mountains, The Major Mysteries, The Perfect Matrimony, Tarot and Kabbalah, Alchemy and Kabbalah in the Tarot, you understand that this Tree of Life is essential. These are precisely the stations of the path, the degrees of consciousness, which we seek to actualize.
Remember that initiation is our own life. It is not found in a physical group, although those schools help. They instruct. They inspire. Real Initiation occurs when we humble ourselves, when we humiliate our ego. Shame comes before honor. If we wish to return to divinity, we have to strip away the baggage, the delusion of self, which is not real. We have to remember the Being, the Tree of Life, because the Being is heaven. When the ego dies, the soul returns to divinity, our true reality: a profound state of omniscience, cognizance, happiness.
And so this diagram helps us to understand ourselves. It is very intricate, very deep. Here we introduce it in the context of this lecture to frame the discussion of the forthcoming lectures in this course.
Divine Nature in Arabic Kabbalah
So again, initiation is development, qualities of consciousness that we learn to realize here and now. It is obtained through very profound work, but of course the Being, divinity―whom the Sufis and Muslims call الله Allah―is precisely the one who gains the initiation honors, degrees, qualities and experiences, understanding, wisdom. الله Allah in Arabic means “The God.” And if you look at this graphic you find that there is a top trinity that emerges from an abstract Seity, a perfect profound and limitless space known as אין Ain, אין סוף Ain Soph, אין סוף אוֹר Ain Soph Aur. That is the Absolute. That is Allah, because even the term Allah meaning “the God” refers to the most profound heights of the Truth.
In Islam they do not have any images of God. It is considered sacrilegious. That is because it is impossible to anthropomorphize space, and the light that emerges is precisely in this diagram, this top trinity: Kether, Chokmah, Binah: Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence. It is light that expresses in three ways, but is one. There is no division of that light. It is perfect, but it manifests in three ways in order to create life, which is why the Qur’an speaks abundantly about how one of the names of divinity is الخليق Al-Khaliq, “The Creator,” referring to Binah, the intelligence of divinity that creates the soul.
Likewise we have الرحمن Al-Rahman, the Compassionate, الرحيم Al-Rahim, the Merciful―Chokmah and Chesed―which refers to the beginning of each Surah of the Qur’an with the exception of Surah 9: بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, “In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Kether is also Allah, the Crown, Supremacy, and that light which emerges from the unknown is that perfect expression of God.
Of course, the Christians refer to this trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that teaching in that tradition degenerated when people mistakenly believe these divinities to be three people and not energy, consciousness. So that is why the Qur’an is explicit and rejects the trinity. But we study all traditions so that we do not end up in fanaticism or confusion.
This light is perfect. It is the Being, and if we wish to know and develop that light as expressed in Surah Al-Nur, the 24th sura of the Qur’an, we learn to enter initiation, to develop that light. We learn to forget our egotism. We put it aside, and remember our true Self, the reality of that light, that great perfection.
Kabbalah, Numerology, and Persian Sufism
So let us define, according to the Sufis what stations are, initiations, levels of progress. The levels of knowing God, the remembrance of God, occurs in accordance with hierarchy, and even amongst the Sufis, they explain these stations in very different ways: sometimes 7, sometimes 40, other times 100, or even 1,000.
These stations refer to the qualities of ourselves, our soul, such as discipline, contentment, awe of divinity.
It is important to remember that these stations are very dynamic. When Samael Aun Weor wrote about these different initiations, he was very specific, and explained something that was never taught publicly. But the Sufis alluded to that teaching in a very abstract way. So as I said, sometimes the Sufis say there are 7 stations, sometimes 40, sometimes 100.
The number 7 is important to Kabbalah. It refers to 7 levels of the soul, the lower 7 levels of the spheres or סְפִירוֹת sephiroth, the Hebrew term for “emanations.” There are also 40 stations referring to the 4 worlds of Kabbalah, the 10 sephiroth in the tree of life in the 4 worlds: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, Asiah.
40 also relates to the Hebrew letter מ Mem, which refers to words like מים mayim, water, and even the Arabic مائي mayiyn, which has the same significance.
Farid ud-Din Attar wrote a book or a poem called The Conference of the Birds, and he speaks about the 7 stations of the path. Al-Qushayri, who wrote Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism, explained that there are 40 stations, which are very profound, and much of the knowledge we are providing here comes from that text. And lastly there is the 100 stations of the Sufi path by Abdullah Ansari of Herat.
All these initiates were Persian, and I’ll quote for you what Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Perfect Matrimony about Persian Sufi initiates:
“The most ineffable part of Mohammedan mysticism is Persian Sufism. It has the merit of struggling against materialism and fanaticism and against the literal interpretation of the Qur’an. The Sufis interpret the Qur’an from the esoteric point of view as we, the Gnostics, interpret the New Testament.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
So Sufism teaches us how to interpret the Qur’an, because the language of the Qur’an is Kabbalah, which if you say in Spanish is La Kaba. It is the science of the stone. In the Middle East, Muslims pray towards Mecca, the Kaaba, the stone of the mysteries. That stone is a symbol of the work with Yesod, the vital forces that are essential into entering meditation.
If you say la baca, the same syllables in Spanish, you have “the cow,” and Al -Baqarah is the longest surah of the Qur’an. It is “The Cow,” a reference to the divine mysteries of the eternal feminine, the Divine Mother. There are very profound mysteries here, very deep.
The term baqa actually means “subsistence.” The term fana in Arabic means “elimination, annihilation” of the self, so that one can enter the Truth. Baqa is subsistence within the Truth. So once we have died to the ego, the soul subsists and realizes the Being, baqa. That is the mystery of Al-Baqarah: the sacred cow within Islam, the longest surah of the Qur’an. If you are interested in knowing more about these topics you can study specifically The Eternal Tarot course we have available on chicagognosis.org, where we speak a lot about the Muslim mysteries and the Kabbalistic symbolism contained within those teachings.
Kabbalah is the science of numbers. They represent principles. The law of 7 is very deep, and it can teach us how to meditate, to understand the Tree of Life in its order. 40 can also relate to 40 virtues, relating to מ Mem in Hebrew, or in Arabic م Meem.
The fact that certain Sufis refer to 100 stations can also refer to initiation, because when you add the numbers together, the digits, 1+0+0=1 relates to the first card of the sacred tarot, Arcanum 1: The Magician, which refers to laws of the Being and the soul, the path of development. The tarot and the Kabbalah are one science, and we use these principles when we study meditation. It is a map and it is how we navigate our own internal worlds.
The Definition of Stations: Initiations
Stations refer to initiations. And going back to the first card of the sacred arcana, is referring to the Magician, the one who begins, who initiates, who works. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al Qushayri:
“A station consists of certain forms of behavior actualized by the servant through his struggles. He gains access to these through some kind of voluntary effort and makes them a reality through a sort of striving and the endurance of constraints upon his nature.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these are the levels of being. We access a higher level of Being by working on our mind, by struggling against mechanical habits, defects. We must gain access to the higher worlds through conscious works and voluntary sufferings. This is a very famous quote by Samael Aun Weor: “We can only awaken through conscious works and voluntary sufferings.” He doesn’t mean that we go out of our way to look for problems. It means that we accept the results of our prior actions, and face the consequences with rectitude, with ethics, with love for humanity.
That is how we constrain the ego. We allow our ego to suffer when we do not get what it wants. This is fundamental if we wish to enter into initiation, understanding of the higher degrees of meditation.
“Everyone’s station is the place that he occupies in this way and with the discipline of which he concerns himself. The necessary condition involved is that no one may proceed from one station to another without fulfilling the requirements of the first station.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
There are very clear levels of development, a progression which the Tree of Life maps very explicitly, very beautifully. The path is very layered. There are levels and degrees, if you have studied The Perfect Matrimony, the Minor Mysteries, the Major Mysteries, the Venustic Initiations, the Three Mountains. While these concepts might seem very far away from us and elevated, they give us a diagram, a map, an understanding of where we are and what we must do.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“For instance, he who has no contentment cannot properly possess trust. He who has no trust cannot properly possess the quality of surrender. Likewise he who has not turned to God cannot properly know penitence. He who has no vigilance over the morality of his actions cannot properly know renunciation.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
If we wish to enter those higher degrees of initiation, we must work with our level of Being. Certain qualities cannot be developed unless we are very intentional. By eliminating certain defects, we give birth to virtues. By learning to renounce our mind, we in turn are vigilant, watchful over our own morality. If we have not repented of our mistakes and really wept profoundly for our errors, we cannot turn to God. If we have no remorse, we cannot change, we cannot wish to yearn or look for help, and if we do not trust our inner divinity, we will never surrender to him with contentment.
So all these qualities are very interwoven, dynamic, infinite, but it is useful to combine this study with the Tree of Life because it helps to clarify these qualities in ourselves.
Raising One’s Station or Level of Being
Al-Qushayri also continues in his Principles of Sufism, relating how the stations are stepping stones towards the path that leads to divinity,
“The station, place of stay, is the act of staying (iqamah), just as the word madkhal, entry, has the sense of the act of entering (idkhal) and the word makhraj, exit, has the sense of the act of leaving (ikhraj). If his affair is to be firmly constructed upon a sound basis, no one may remain in a given station unless there is evidence that it is the act of God Most High [and not his own act] that causes him to stay in that station.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I mentioned to you, stations are stepping stones, degrees, virtues and qualities that we develop in a progression, qualities of the soul that are perfected in the different initiations mentioned by Samael Aun Weor.
There are virtues that we need to master at certain degrees. In מלכות Malkuth, the First Initiation of Fire, we must have patience, tenacity, endurance in order to awaken the fire of the kundalini, the sacred Shekhinah.
In יְסוֹד Yesod, we must truly repent for our lustful deeds, our desires.
In הוד Hod, the heart, the astral world, we have to work on our emotions very deeply: our anger, our resentment, our pride.
In נצח Netzach, the mental world, we have to be very diligent about how we think, how our thoughts affect others.
While these qualities are not strictly limited to those sephiroth, there are certain idiosyncrasies we need to learn. And that is something you can only know through experience. These stations are places in which one can stay or which one can leave, one can transcend. The goal is never to stay in one place, never to go down, to fall, but to ascend these higher and higher degrees of knowledge.
So we are not allowed to stay stationary, unless that is what our divinity wants. There are some practitioners who get stuck because of certain defects they are working on, or do not understand. Other times the Being keeps us at a certain degree because we need to learn something more, to be firmly established in certain virtues, and the understanding of certain actions, but the goal is never to stay in one place, but to always ascend, to go up, to ascend this Tree of Life.
This map is very intricate. It is very dense. There are many relationships associated with each sphere. There are many names of divinity, many aspects of the soul and the Being that are diagrammed here. It is a lifetime of study, to really traverse this map of consciousness from experience. These stations are known as maqamat in Arabic. These are initiations, degrees, levels of development. And I will quote for you a very famous Persian text which I mentioned by Abdullah Ansari of Herat, The Stations of the Sufi Path, and I will explain a few points about this teaching of the Tree of Life and how it can aid our meditation.
“It has been confirmed that Khidr, peace be with him, said: ‘There are one thousand stations (maqām) between the servant of God and his Lord (mawlā).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
The Qur’an speaks about this figure known as Khidr, who helped Moses, and Morya in The Lord God of Truth Within refers to this initiate as Melchizedek, the genii of the Earth, a great master.
“And a similar saying has been mentioned from Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri, Abu Yazid al-Bastāmi, al-Junayd, and Abu Bakr al-Kattāni―may God be pleased with them all. Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri said: ‘There are a thousand worlds’ [between the servant of God and his Lord], Abu Yazid and al-Junayd―may God bless their innermost selves, said: one thousand palaces,’ and Abu Bakr al-Kattāni said: ‘a thousand stations.’” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So whether 100 or 1000, these refer to initiations. There are ten spheres in this diagram, from מלכות Malkuth to כֶּתֶר Kether, and if you have read The Major Mysteries, Samael Aun Weor refers to these degrees in terms of esoteric time.
If you are in meditation and you ask a master or your being to tell you where are you at in your work, they will refer to you in your age. To be 99 years or younger refers to the Minor Mysteries. 10 to the first initiation of Minor Mysteries, 20 to the second initiation of Minor Mysteries, 30 to the third initiation of Minor Mysteries, up to the ninth, 90. And beyond that: 100 to a 1000 refer to these ten spheres of the tree of life, the Major Mysteries, and even beyond.
It is a symbol. It is a reference point. We need to know this map so that when we travel to these places in our work and, internally, we do not get lost, we do not get confused, because we cannot interpret our experiences literally. They are symbolic, abstract.
“God the Most High, says, ‘Is the person who follows the good pleasure of God like the person who brings to himself the wrath of God, whose dwelling is Hell?―A woeful refuge! (3:162) [Certainly] they are in varying degrees (darajāt) in the sight of God,’ (3:163) and those ‘ascending degrees’ mentioned in this Qur’anic verse are one thousand stations.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So study this diagram with a lot of patience. I only provide an overview of this to provide context for understanding what the different stations we will talk about, but also the qualities of the soul needed to master those states and to progress in our meditations.
“The journey to God is short, the journey in God is infinite”―ascending degrees, more knowledge, limitless wisdom, which is why Prophet Muhammed stated in Surah Ta Ha, verse 114: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge!”
Way Stations and Abiding Stations
Abdullah Ansari of Herat explains that there are way stations and abiding stations. These stations are stopping places. They are levels, levels of Being, which always ascend higher and higher towards the divine. And even within the divine there are infinite degrees, levels of Being, which we seek to actualize. This quote explains how this is a very dynamic process, and that we must always strive forward in our work, to question in our meditations, “Where are we at? What must we do in our particular level so that we can renounce what is egotistical and ascend towards what is higher?
“And those one thousand stations are ‘stopping places’ which are traveled by those who are journeying toward God (Haqq) until the servant, having passed [and is helped to pass] through those ascending degrees stage by stage, is honored to be received into the proximity (qurb) of God.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So what is this proximity of God? There are levels to God, which is why we study the Tree of Life, because there are levels and levels of that light. As it is stated in the Qur’an, “Light upon light!” in Surah al-Nur: levels and levels of understanding, but always we want to go higher. That is the goal.
“Or the servant himself passes through one stopping place after another until he reaches the final stopping place, which for him is the field of proximity to God. The proximity he leaves behind is only ‘a way-station,’ while that [proximity] where he remains is the [abiding spiritual] ‘station’―like those stations of the angels in the heavens.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So many of us long to be close to God, to have that experience, to have that realization. We have to remember that we must travel, and traveling to a distant country that is foreign unfamiliar, dangerous, requires a lot of courage, a lot of work, striving, effort.
The stages of the path are way stations, and we wish to abide within the highest spiritual station, like the angels. And we have to remember that the Elohim or the angels, the buddhas, the Gods, whatever name we wish to use, were once like us. They did not begin from the heights. They rose from the mud. They polished their hearts with dhikr, remembrance of Allah, through meditating on their true nature.
One practice we can do is to meditate on the Tree of Life, to ask for clarification of what this diagram means to us. And to understand that these are way stations, places of travel that lead higher and higher. The path of divinity, of the gods, is in a much higher octave, degree, than what we can conceptualize here, and even with the Tree of Life.
We know that there are the ten spheres or sephiroth of the tree in which certain masters ascend, but even in the Absolute there are degrees and degrees and degrees, which are incomprehensible for us at our level. But we need to understand this conceptually, so that we know what the goal is―and to meditate on this for ourselves―to know the truth of it from experience.
"[As] God, the Most High, says, ‘And there is none among us but he has a known station, (37:164) (and in His saying) They seek a way of access to their Lord, which of them (might be) closest…’ (17:57).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So even the gods, the angels, seek to go higher, and this can inspire us, and humble us―to remember that this path is a process. It is a patient work. Rumi, the great Sufi poet and initiate, explained this process in one of his poems. He talks about the process of the soul elevating higher and higher and higher through a process of the death of the ego.
"I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was Man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar With angels blest; but even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish. When I have sacrificed my angel-soul, I shall become what no mind e'er conceived. Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence Proclaims in organ tones, To Him we shall return." ―Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi
So what is that non-existence? It is referred to in the Kabbalah as the Absolute: Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur―the cosmic space, the Truth, the infinite from which every world manifests.
Even the term الله Allah has a negating principle. لا Lah means “no” in Arabic. ال Al is the indefinite article “the.” الله Allah is the negative, “The No,” the negation of all that is not divinity. In order to reach those heights, we have to renounce, renounce, and renounce all that is imperfect in us. We must undergo fana, annihilation of the self so that we can subsist, baqa, within our eternal divine reality.
As Abdullah Ansari of Herat states:
“So each of these thousand stations is a waystation for the spiritual traveler (ravanda’), but a station (maqām) for the discoverer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
The Six Conditions for Initiation
There are some initiates who are reaching certain heights while others are transcending those―degrees and degrees, a process. We have spoken a lot about Kabbalah and the tarot in synthesis. It is important to remember that the 22 arcana of the Tarot are synthesized in the Tree of Life. And there is one card in particular that can help us to understand what the Sufis wrote about the six conditions for initiation, of aiding our meditation.
If we wish to understand and experience this Tree of Life in its different modalities, expressions, principles, archetypes―we must practice six things according to the stations of the Sufi path.
“In those thousand stations, there is no escape from six things, even for the blink of an eye. These six things [conditions] are: respecting the divine command, fearing God’s tricks and ruse, seeking God’s forgiveness, actively respecting the sunna (the Prophetic Tradition), living in friendship and kindness, and being compassionate toward all creation.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So the sixth card of the tarot relates to these principles, and is a very wonderful diagram for understanding our situation, and how to really enter initiation, deeply, profoundly.
The sixth arcanum, the sixth law, refers to the lovers of the tarot. It is the soul caught between the ego and the divine. He is looking to his left, his left arm crossed over his right and his feet in the waters of the card, in the bottom third of this diagram, because he has fallen into temptation.
He represents us. We wish to enter the path, to understand the path, to practice it, to work, but we have ego. And the woman on the right of the card, or to the left of this initiate, is precisely naked, referring to her lasciviousness, her lust, which is his mind, his own ego, his nafs, his own lower soul.
To his right, a divine initiate, a woman, referring to the Divine Mother the sacred cow of Islam, Al-Baqarah. Above there is an angel aiming an arrow towards the whore, the prostitute, the naked woman of this arcanum, in order to slay her, and this teaches us the path, the path of meditation.
Meditation is for comprehending our own faults, eliminating our faults, and perfecting our soul. We do this through love, by loving our divinity. But of course, for that we must turn in repentance to our own inner divinity. But we see that the man’s face is towards the prostitute of this card. He is not facing the chaste, divine, beautiful woman on his right. The Qur’an speaks abundantly of turning to God, as having remorse. If we do not have remorse, it means that we do not respect the divine command: the laws of ethics of the soul.
Remember that the basis of meditation is founded on how we use our energy. Lust and love cannot mix. They are opposites. Desire says “me,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I need,” and compassion says “you,” “what you need.” Lust fulfills itself. Love or compassion sacrifices for others.
1. Respecting the Divine Command
So what does it mean to respect the divine command? Since we have been studying the writings of Samael Aun Weor, the most specific command is chastity, sexual purity, renunciation of animal desire, fornication. We cannot enter initiation if we are losing our energies, sexually speaking. It means that we do not respect divinity and we are facing the whore of the sixth arcanum, feeding our animality, our lower soul.
beginning meditators often struggle with the reality of lust. This is precisely the path of Indecision, the name of this card. When we struggle to orient ourselves, we renounce lust, again and again, as we enter the stations of the path. Without an understanding of chastity, we cannot understand meditation, to rise to a new station. So we must learn to comprehend and have remorse: to really understand how our own desires create pain for ourselves, and for others.
2. Fearing God’s Tricks and Ruse
This has to do with the ordeals we receive as we are practicing meditation and chastity. These are struggles we have to face that come from divinity. If we do not receive hardship, we will never change. We will never confront the monster that is underneath the bed. Without these troubles and difficult situations in life, our defects will never spontaneously emerge so that we can see them.
This is a psychological gymnasium, which is why Arcanum 6 teaches us the following axiom: “Thou art giving me labor, oh Lord, and fortitude with it.” If you study the lectures on Lucifer, you will know this teaching very well―the tempter, that part of our psychology and divinity that places ordeals and challenges and temptations so that we can overcome them and grow. So this is what it means to fear God’s tricks and ruse, because we face ordeals, but if we don’t comprehend them and eliminate our defects, we end up in more suffering.
3. Seeking God’s Forgiveness
We also must learn to seek God’s forgiveness. Sincere remorse is essential. In meditation it is the crux of how we change, that feeling in the heart that we have made a mistake, and we wish to know how to work on that fault.
4. Actively Respecting the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition)
And this is how we actively respect the sunnah, a prophetic tradition, the writings of any master or prophet, the life of the prophets, where we see by their examples and spiritual life, like in The Three Mountains by Samael Aun Weor, how to orient our heart when we are troubled.
5. Living in Friendship and Kindness and 6. Compassion Towards All Beings
But also living in kindness and friendship and being compassionate towards all creation. If we want to neutralize selfishness, desire, egocentrism, we must learn to sacrifice for other people. This is what drives us on the path of initiation, how we initiate, how we meditate on what we must change.
Spiritual Acts and Remembrance of God
Lastly, we will talk about spiritual acts and remembrance. Some people think of initiation and the Tree of Life as something abstract, outside of ourselves. But if we wish to really understand meditation, we have to study Kabbalah. We have to understand the symbols and how they apply to what is going on in our life, otherwise we are confused.
I’ll relate to an experience I had many years ago that can elucidate these concepts. I remember that I was meditating very deeply, sometimes hours a day, and I remember falling asleep in my chair in my bedroom. I awoke in the astral plane in my home where I was shown an instructional video. The words “the Path of the Self-realization of the Being” scrolled from left to right in front of my vision or screen.
I was next shown a diagram, ten spheres, which are aligned in two rows of five columns, different faces. Mine was at the bottom, far right. I saw figures that I can never forget―different qualities, or different expressions of different faces, or people, which at the time I did not understand.
I was never studious about Kabbalah in the beginning, but I was having meditation experiences that I could not explain. I remember seeing, particularly, figures in this diagram, portraits, associated with the Nordic pantheon, such as Wotan, father of the gods, in the far top left, and other faces associated with Germanic mythology. And I remember asking this question of an instructor who directed me to Kabbalah, the Tree of Life. I understood that each portrait or face in that glyph was a symbol of my Being: different faces or aspects of my own inner Truth, levels of initiation.
When I understood this symbol, I was relieved, and I had a lot of faith built from my understanding that I was being helped. I just needed the practical knowledge to interpret, and that is why in Kabbalah is essential to meditation, because I was confused. I knew this was from my inner divinity, because of my heart and what my soul was telling me, but when I verified in writing from the books, this reality, it solidified my faith and has helped me to progress through many years of work―to be patient.
In this process, we must always go higher, revise our understanding, self-reflect, which is why Al-Qushayri said in Principles of Sufism the following anecdote,
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “When al-Wasiti entered Nishapur, he asked the companions of Abu Uthman [al-Hiri], ‘What did your shaykh use to order you to do?’ They replied, ‘He used to order us to realize the necessity of acts of obedience and to see clearly how we fell short in them.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So while this pertains to our ethical discipline, of course, there are levels. We emphasize ethics always, but we must not get caught up in concepts, intellectualism, theories which is why:
Al-Wasiti exclaimed, ‘He ordered you to sheer fire-worship! Why did he not command you to be absent from these acts in the vision of their Originator and Further?’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Meaning: why did he not teach you to learn how to act selflessly from the Being, to manifest those higher qualities in the vision and remembrance of the Truth? Levels of knowledge. Remember we spoke about Shariah, Tariqah, Marif’ah―ethical discipline, inner work, and the highest realizations.
Again in that Tree of Life, you can refer to the three trinities of that diagram: above, middle, and below. The top trinity formed by כֶּתֶר Kether, חָכְמָה Chokmah, בִּינָה Binah―the middle trinity: חֶסֶד Chesed, גְּבוּרָה Geburah, תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, and the bottom trinity: נצח Netzach, הוד Hod, and יְסוֹד Yesod. The three levels of Sufism correspond to the three trinities of Kabbalah: the Tree of Life. The top trinity relates to Marif’ah. The middle trinity relates to Tariqah: the path of the heart, and Shariah refers to the lower trinity, how we work with Netzach, our mind, Hod, our emotions, and Yesod, our energy―levels of knowledge and wisdom.
“Al-Wasiti only intended to safeguard these people against complacency (from being satisfied with their level of development), not to turn aside into realms of negligence (to abandon the ethical practices of our tradition) or to authorize infringement of a single one of the usages of religion.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So remember that the Tree of Life is very intricate. We will approach this glyph systematically to understand how these principles apply to our meditation. Even the terms used in Hebrew relate to the profound development of the consciousness, and so here we introduce these concepts, but we will open up the floor to any questions you may have.
Questions and Answers
Question: I was curious, you talked about having a map to know where you are right now, could you talk a little bit more about that?
Instructor: Yes. So, the Tree of Life is precisely the map of our consciousness, and where we are and what we must do.
So we know from our meditative practice that the lower five spheres of this diagram teaches about the quality of our soul. Malkuth in Hebrew means “Kingdom,” our body. When we meditate, we must learn to calm Malkuth.
We must also learn to relax and to work with our vital forces relating to Yesod, which in Hebrew means “Foundation,” the vital energies. We work with these vital energies through mantra, through prayer, through transmutation, sacred rites of rejuvenation, runes, many exercises that are provided in the writings of Samael Aun Weor.
We also learn to calm our emotions, withdraw our emotions from negativities, relating to Hod, the astral body, referring to “Splendor” in Hebrew, the splendor of the heart, the compassion of the heart.
As we calm our emotional center, we also let the mind exhaust itself, relating to Netzach, “Victory.” Sometimes Samael Aun Weor mentions how one who conquers his or her mind is victorious, a buddha, and so the mind always wanders from thing to thing, associative thinking.
We must learn to control our mind with willpower. We are referring to Tiphereth, which in Hebrew means “Beauty,” the beauty of the soul: profound, intuitive, beautiful action. It does not mean a will that is enmeshed in desire, because in most cases for us, our will is conditioned. We tend to be very weak willed in our studies, especially in the beginning. But through these exercises of meditation, concentration practice, relaxation, pranayama, we learn to fortify our will with divine force.
And even when we sit to practice meditation, we can look at this glyph. We can meditate on this diagram and question: where are we in our work? What are we stuck in? Most people do not even get past the physical body. They are always moving their Malkuth. The body, the earth, is always moving. Our inner earth, our body, Malkuth, must always be still when we meditate.
Some people work with energy after relaxing the body, work with Yesod. Other times we are caught up with negative emotion relating to Hod, or our mind is too active, chattering, Netzach. And sometimes we need to develop more will, more divine will, action that always serves, submits to divinity, referring to Chesed, the Being, the Innermost in Hebrew, meaning “Mercy.” And the divine soul, Geburah in Hebrew, referring to “Justice,” the mercy and justice of divinity, which always knows how to act in any situation.
Of course, to go higher requires work, but in a simple way, this diagram teaches us where we are. And if we learn to really investigate those spheres in the internal dimensions, we can receive even more profound guidance, and be instructed as to what we have to work on.
Remember that the science of dream yoga is geared to understanding our own experiences in life. Initiation is our own life, lived intensely, with rectitude and with love. So if we awaken consciousness in those higher regions of nature, we can be shown our level of being, our qualities of mind, our defects that we have to work on, so that when we return to our physical body from sleep, we are charged, we are inspired, because we are receiving the inner guidance of our own inner divinity.
So that is a representation of what the stations are, and they can refer to virtues. They can refer to the sephiroth, the Tree of Life. And remember that each sphere of this Kabbalistic glyph refers to qualities of Being and the soul, such as justice and mercy, beauty, victory, splendor, foundations of work relating to energy, and the kingdom that encompasses all of it. So it is a very beautiful diagram that can teach us much. We will go into aspects of this glyph progressively, in this course, in order to relate certain qualities that can help us understand how to work more effectively.
Audience: That is great, very helpful, thank you.
Instructor: You are welcome.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
The most important principle of meditation, of genuine religion, is precisely the present moment. Studying Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, astrology, Kundalini, tantra, alchemy, the eternal tarot, the scriptures, all this will amount to nothing if we do not comprehend the moment we are in.
The teachings are vastly complex. The terms we use, the knowledge we reference, is highly technical, sophisticated, profound. Yet, despite this complexity, this vastness, all this knowledge can be synthesized into a very simple point, which is awareness of the present.
True knowledge is experienced. It is experiential. It is found here and now, not in some distant future or by reflecting only upon the past. It is found in the moment.
All traditions, all meditative disciplines teach the doctrine of the moment, since this is the key for realization, knowledge of divinity, experience of the truth. Samael Aun Weor, in The Elimination of Satan's Tail wrote the following:
“To achieve the stillness and silence of the mind, it is necessary to know how to live from instant to instant, to know how to take advantage of each moment, to not live the moment in doses.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Elimination of Satan’s Tail
All traditions of meditation teach that the origin of suffering is a lack of awareness of who we are, how we behave, what we are doing now. We have to be reflective. In Gnosticism, in the writings of Samael Aun Weor, we learn that we must know who we are, where we come from, where we are at.
Let us examine ourselves. How conscious are we throughout the day? This is not a matter of possessing vitality in the morning when we wake up, in order to be physically active. Wakefulness, vigilance, attention, awakening, is a direct state of perception of this instant, the moment we find ourselves in. So, how aware are we throughout the day? Are we awake from moment to moment? Are we attentive to what we are doing here and now?
Are we examining ourselves in whatever stage or action we are involved in? Or do we think of other things? Do we daydream? Do we fantasize? Do we worry?
Whenever we think of other things: planning, expecting, day dreaming, remembering, instead of focusing our attention on where we are at, what we are doing, it means our consciousness is asleep. We are not awake. We are dreaming.
Imagine that you are washing dishes. If we are cleaning dishes in our kitchen, but thinking of our loved ones, our friends, our family, we ignore what we are doing. We forget what we are doing. And in this way, we cut ourselves. Perhaps with a knife because we are not attentive to what we are doing in the kitchen. This is a very simple example of a profound truth: that when we lack attention in moments of critical engagement with life, we hurt ourselves.
What happens with people when they drive their car and they don't pay attention to the road? People have ended up in accidents or have killed themselves, injured others, because they are not awake. They were on their cell phone, daydreaming, thinking of other things, not focused on what they were doing.
So, there are serious consequences when we don't pay attention, and this is our chronic state. We have no cognizance of where we are or what we do, and because we act unconsciously upon negative thoughts, negative feelings, negative impulses, we produce suffering. We harm ourselves and others spiritually. It is this lack of comprehension of our internal states that produces all the sorrow of humanity.
The origin of pain is the "I." It is our sense of self that acts mechanically, that always thinks and behaves in accordance to hypotheses, theories, opinions, beliefs. The mind does not know the truth, because it is the past. This sense of self, the ego, the "I," is memory, according to Samael Aun Weor.
The Sufis refer to the self, the ego, as nafs, nafas, which can mean “breath,” a type of energy which works upon the mind. It is the expression of our words when they are filled with hatred, with envy, with pride. Someone who is awake and aware does not rely on the ego, does not speak the utterances of desire. In that way we avoid pain.
This is the beginning and the end of religion. It is found in this moment. Because when we pay attention to the present, when we observe our thoughts, our feelings, our impulses, we can access states of being that truly are inaccessible or comprehensible for people who know nothing of the soul, who are identified with pride, with lust, with hatred, with vanity, etc.
We speak in these studies of self-observation and self-remembering. The Sufis referred to self-observation as inner accounting, muhasabah: to make an account of our defects so that by discovering our defects, they may become dead defects. We have to learn to see ourselves in the moment, not to think we are a certain way or to assume, but to perceive. This is how we study the book of our life.
We look, we introspect the examined. We observe our mind, our heart, and our impulses, our behaviors. This is the beginning of religion, and you can only find it here in this instant.
But self-observation is not enough. This must be combined with presence of God, remembrance of divinity. This is a profound state of awareness known as hudur in Arabic: the presence of God, the presence of divinity. This is accessed through muhadarah, awareness of the present.
Many Gnostic students write to us and ask us, how do I remember my divinity? How do I know that I am observing myself correctly? The question unveils the answer. Self-observation and remembrance are not intellectual exercises. They are found when we stop thinking, when we learn to look―to look from a space between thought, when we were not identified with an idea, with a concept. Remembrance of God is a quality, a crystal, pristine fountain of divine states. We know this state and we experience it, especially in a moment when we are in a crisis, when all the elements of the psyche are mixed, churning; when we are boiling with ordeals, because anyone on this path must face crises so that the ego comes to the surface. This is why the Quran states:
“And We shall test you until We know those among you who strive and those who are patient, and We shall test your proclamations.” ―Muhammad (47:31)
“And We will surely test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient…” ―Al-Baqarah, “The Cow” (2:155).
“Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” ―Al-Anbiya “The Prophets” (21:35)
We face hardships so that the ego emerges, but the question remains, what desire or what will do we act upon? In a moment when we are criticized, lied to, spat upon, hated. What behavior do we enact?
This is not an intellectual exercise. It is a quality of mind. It is a decision we make in the moment. Do we respond with anger, with self-esteem, with resentment, with pride? Or do we choose a better way of behaving? Conscious love, compassion, forgiveness, serenity and wisdom is the way.
We achieve serenity and wisdom when we don't act on the mind. When in that crisis of being criticized or insulted, we remain calm. We don't allow our external behavior to manifest with anger, but on a deeper level, we learn to introspect and not act upon anger in the mind.
This is why meditation is essential. This is why the present moment is fundamental. We have to be aware of where we are at; who we are; what we are doing. Because, the gospel of the moment, the doctrine of the moment, is precisely defined and written in the book of our deeds.
When we choose virtuous action, especially in those moments when, really, our desires and our ego want to retaliate, we gain wisdom when we act ethically―when we comprehend that our pride, that our hatred, is wrong. And in that way, we remember God. We contemplate God. We realize that to act with anger is to be unethical. Is to be a demon; to be a failure. But to allow virtue to spontaneously flourish, to let intuitive action emerge from the presence of our heart, we find happiness and we avoid problems.
This is why Samael Aun Weor in The Elimination of Satan's Tail:
“Take everything from each moment, because each moment is a child of Gnosis, each moment is absolute, alive and significant. Momentariness is a special characteristic of the Gnostics. We love the philosophy of momentariness.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Elimination of Satan’s Tail
So when people ask this question: how do I self-observe? How do I self-remember? It shows that we are not being spontaneous. These principles are understood by looking in ourselves here and now. It is spontaneity. It is alive: the doctrine of Gnosis, knowledge. You only gain understanding by looking at yourself.
When we look to the intellect for answers, we vacillate, we hesitate, we make mistakes. In a moment, we may think in a crisis that a certain action will be best, and yet our heart tells us otherwise. And because we don't act upon the intuitions of our heart, we go along with the intellect and justify ourselves. Meanwhile, we feel remorse and realize later that we acted wrongly.
So instead of hesitating about what to do in those moments, we have to learn to follow our heart. It is a quality of the heart. Remembrance of God is in the heart, within the soul. This is what it means to live intuitively, to live with intelligence, because the intellect cannot solve problems. It can store information. It can theorize. It can conceptualize, but it cannot know an answer.
So we have to remember this presence, to learn what this presence is. It is the wisdom of our own conscience: our heart that tells us this is right, and this is wrong. The more we feed that conscience, the stronger it gets. The more we deny that conscience in the moment, the more we suffer.
This is why the Sufis taught, especially through the writings of Rumi, "My friend, the Sufi is the son of the present moment. To say ‘tomorrow’ is not our way."
Defining the Moment
Let us define what the present moment is.
In our tradition, we spend a lot of time talking about self-observation and self-remembering. We do so through analyzing the lines of life and being.
The line of life is time. It is birth, life, and death. It is mechanical. It is the events of our existence that repeat mechanically through recurrence. It is our daily experience from morning to evening. It is a repetition. It is a cycle which the Buddhists call samsara: cycling. And in this way, we travel through life from our birth to our death, but usually without any understanding.
The line of being is very different. These are the qualities of the soul, the qualities of consciousness. These are the superior states of being, which are elevated and known by the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah. This is a map of our soul, of our Being, of our identity. These are the superior qualities that the Sufis state in their doctrine, in manuals such as Kashf al-Mahjub, Revelation of the Mystery by Al-Hujwiri and also the states and stations the path mentioned by many masters such as Al-Qushayri and Abdullah Ansari of Herat, of whom I will be quoting today.
These are the states and stations in the path. Each sphere or sephiroth is a quality of being, which is many elements, many principles. And so, the states and stations of the path are mapped by the Hebraic Kabbalah in a very intuitive way.
Now, we will be exploring how those principles relate to this diagram extensively, but in synthesis we state, the superior states of being are the sephiroth, the Tree of Life, and the inferior states of being are the Tree of Zaqqum mentioned in the Qur’an. This is the tree of death: the inverted spheres, the Klipoth, the hell realms.
Heaven and hell are states of being, and yet there are also places in nature that we access when we are sleeping in the dreaming state.
The law of attraction determines our life. What we are psychologically attracts where we go in nature. We always follow the trajectory of our mental stream, our mind, our behaviors. Virtuous people associate with virtuous people. Demonic people with demonic people. Everybody likes to talk about in these times of the law of attraction, about getting what you want, fulfilling desire. And yet people fail to realize that while this is true―we associate with people at our level of being―it doesn't mean that we should follow just desire, egotism.
Instead in our studies, we seek to change our level of being, our psychology in this instant, of where we are at. If we wish to access the Tree of Life, the heavenly dimensions, we do so by being in the moment―being present―which is why Al-Qushayri states the following in his book Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say that the “now”―waqt―is that in which you are. If you are in the world, your “now” is this world. If you are in the next world (the higher dimensions of the Tree of Life), your “now” is the next world. If you are in joy, your “now” is joy. If you are in sorrow, your “now” is sorrow. He means by this that the present moment is that which has dominance over a person.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Many people wanted to experience the higher dimensions, the Tree of Life, astral projections, jinn experiences, awakened knowledge, but often what they fail to do is practice in their daily life: vigilance, to be aware of the present, because one who is awakening physically in their daily state―that is no longer acting mechanically―that introspection and vigilance occurs within the internal planes until the present moment dominates.
Usually the moment defines us, and not the other way around. We suffer mechanically through circumstances, never knowing how to change our reactions to life. It is only when we learn to be aware of this instant that we can transform our state and ascend to higher levels of being.
Samael Aun Weor mentions that the ability to originate new circumstances, to no longer be a slave to the line of life, following, repeatedly, mechanically, the process of birth, life, and death, and then on repeat, to return―the law of return, transmigration―we can escape the mechanism of life by following epigenesis, which is “the ability to originate new circumstances."
Because we usually repeat things moment-by-moment, primarily because we are not aware of the “now.” Situations, events, people, dramas, tragedies, comedies: these incessantly repeat. If we want to transform the situation, we have to be aware of this instant, our internal states. We have to be aware of the instant, our states in relation to external events, because this is the requirement for the moment.
Requirements for the Moment
The Sufis use the technical term 'waqt' to define the present. They explain that superior or inferior action always depends upon the present. Our state of mind and what we decide in the moment determines our trajectory. We have to be aware of the impressions of life and what we experience, but also our internal state.
Al-Qushayri states in his Principles of Sufism the following,
“Waqt (the present moment) may refer specifically to the time in which one is. Some people say that the present moment is between the two times, that is, the past and the future.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these constitute the line of life. We must decide to enact the qualities of the being or animal desires.
“And they say that the Sufi is the “son of his moment.” This means that he occupies himself immediately with whatever sort of devotion should come first in a given moment. He bases himself upon what is required of him at the time. It is said, “The dervish cares for neither the past nor the future of his moment: he cares for the moment in which he is.” And regarding this, “To be preoccupied with what escaped you in a moment that has passed is to waste a second moment.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Real devotion is remembrance of divinity in the present instant. It is only here and now. Now we can fulfill divine action, but if we are distracted, asleep, unconscious, we cannot respond ethically to the moment. So this is what Shari’ah is, the law, the instruction. The code of ethical conduct. We have to learn to be in the instant, to respond with ethics, with compassion, with wisdom. If we feel shame for having acted unethically, even if only in our mind, then we are distracted with the past. We must be present with our being and not be preoccupied with the past, to be conscious here and now. This is the essence of worship.
So people think that worship is something external. We always do so according to many mainstream religions, by attending a mosque, a church, synagogue, a temple. In reality, we have to learn to worship divinity in our actions. We do so by becoming aware of God.
The Governance of the Present
“The best act of worship is watchfulness of the moments. That is, that the servant not look beyond his limit, not contemplate anything other than his Lord, and not associate with anything other than his present moment.” ―Al-Wasiti, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
To not look beyond our limit means to follow our intuition: to not speculate “how I must act,” but know it in our heart.
Everybody struggles with the mind. The mind says one thing, the heart another. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated, "We must learn to think with the heart and feel with the head.” Intuition is an act of consciousness and plenitude, where the ego is not present.
Contemplation of God exists as we observe ourselves and no longer act upon the ego. We learn to speak and behave ethically, from a state of serenity, altruism, compassion, generosity. When we associate with anything other than the present, it means that we are unconscious. We are dreaming. We are thinking. We are associating other things with the present, meaning: we are driving our car, but we are associating in our mind with our job, thinking of our previous work day, or anticipating the future, or thinking of what a solution could be for a problem. These are beliefs, ideas, concepts, justifications. These elements cloud our perception of what we are doing in the moment.
The Muslims speak abundantly of not associating with anything other than God. The Qur’an speaks, many times, of “Far be He from that which they associate with Him!" Or: “Glory to Allah! He is free from the things they ascribe to Him!” (37:159).
So we included the calligraphy of Allah in Arabic in this slide to talk about the governance of the present, primarily because we have to learn to allow the Being to act through us. Of course, for some people this may seem like a very difficult endeavor, or better said, an impossible one. Many students ask us, how do I remember God? And we always answer very simply: Did your behavior produce suffering or happiness? What are the results in our midstream? The qualities of our mind?
Self-observation, inner-accounting, muhasabah, is when we take account of our defects, but remembrance of the presence of God, Hudur, is something qualitative; something psychological, spiritual. You learn to taste it by striving towards it again and again, by learning to overcome and not act upon the ego, as was mentioned by that quote from Al-Wasati.
“The best act of worship is watchfulness of the moment.” Don't look beyond your limit. Don't try to contemplate anything else than the present. If you are in this instant, don't think about some miraculous samadhi in the clouds when we can't even pay attention to tying our shoes. You learn to access those higher states by being aware of the most mundane things, which is not really so mundane if we are attentive. It is a quality of the new, alert novelty: when we see life in a new way.
The reality is that no one can teach you how to remember God. You do so through deep reflection on your internal states―by discriminating and analyzing in meditation the suffering of wrong action and the happiness of liberated action. When we learn to act without egotism, we are following our intuition, the voice of conscience, the heart doctrine. This is when we follow al-Haqq, the Truth, the Being.
The following quote is from the Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri.
“The Sufis also may use waqt to mean the power and direction of the Truth when it comes over them regardless of their own will. They say, “So-and-so is under the rule of the now,” (bi hukm il-waqt)―that is, he has surrendered himself without preference to whatever appears to him from the unknown.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What is the unknown? The Being, the Truth. As Samael Aun Weor mentions, it is the unknowable from moment to moment. God is infinite and his states are a perfect multiple unity. Divinity as a unity is perfect, is integral, but the qualities of divinity are infinite―described by qualities such as altruism, patience, diligence, compassion, love.
Real Islam is when we submit to the qualities of God in the moment, and knowing how to act rightly in a crisis, in the instant, which is intuitive action. It doesn't mean that we follow a reason in the intellect, necessarily, but following an ethical conduct: the voice of our conscience in our heart.
When Muslims pray to the East towards Mecca, towards the stone, the Kaaba of the alchemists―the stone of la baca: the sacred cow, or the stone of the masons, Yesod―they do so by bowing their head to the earth. This is a beautiful symbol of allowing the Being to control the mind.
We have to submit our head to the East, towards the divine, a symbol of learning to be present in the moment. So in terms of salat, ritual prayer, Muslims bow their head to the East. It signifies how we have to obey the commands of our intuition, even when it is painful for our ego. This is Islam [submission], and this is what leads to salam, peace. When we act upon our conscience and our heart, we find true peace and serenity. We resolve problems. We find solutions, but knowing how to find that answer is very difficult, especially in the moment, which is why we have to meditate.
We have to reflect upon our day and to understand how we behaved internally, externally. This is how we learn to govern the present moment more effectively, when those situations and events repeat, so that we can comprehend more. We have to learn to submit to the inner voice of our divine Being, whom only we can recognize. We have to follow our intuition, even if it makes our mind scream with pain. This is the path of crucifixion mentioned by Jesus. We have to accept our internal states and also question what we see so that we can act rightly.
“So-and-so is under the rule of the now,” (bi hukm il-waqt)―that is, he has surrendered himself without preference to whatever appears to him from the unknown.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This means that the mind is receptive. The heart is receptive. We are awake. We are vigilant. The mind is serene, so that in the waters of our psyche, the pure images of heaven can reflect. Therefore, we have no preference to what God gives us. We obey God. We become a vehicle of the divine. That is what it means to be governed in the present, by a profound state of samadhi, ecstasy, wujud, here and now.
To reach these states, we have to be practical meditators. We have to really sift through the mud of the mind, so that we gain more clarity day by day, year by year. This is a very important aspect of Sufism and meditation. To access intuitive states in the daily moment of our life, but also in our meditations, especially. You cannot have one without the other.
“This can apply only to circumstances where God Most High has given no order, and where there is no model in the Divine Ordinance that one is obliged to follow.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What this quote references is that some situations in life are more mundane. There is no crisis there. We are dealing with our daily obligations, our chores. It is not necessary that we receive a divine ordinance or command that we must follow in a particular ordeal.
Sometimes the Being, as we are in the process of self-realization, enters into us, but also retracts. It comes into my mind a story of the Master Samael Aun Weor, who even towards the end of his life, his last incarnation, before the advent of resurrection, he had no ego, but he went to go give a lecture in a large auditorium in South America where his Being entered him, according to one missionary. He was speaking with a lot of force, commanding and speaking to the audience and providing his teaching from the Logos Samael, the Martian Christ. And yet later, this missionary who told me the story went up to the Master Samael after the lecture, and saw that Samael Aun Weor was very calm and even childlike. He didn't have that Martian, powerful, commanding force that he exemplified in the lecture.
And this missionary explained, it is because during the lecture, the Being had to give a teaching, entering into him in the present moment and provided the knowledge that was so necessary for us. Then the Being retracts. This is known as absence and presence in Sufism, Ghaybah and Hudur, respectively.
Sometimes even at the very heights, the Being enters through us, but also retracts. But if we are serious about the work, eventually the Being will be fully present, always. That is achieved at the end of the Second Mountain as taught within our courses of initiation.
So we have to learn to follow the commands of God when it is given to us through our heart through our emotional center, especially―our superior emotions, our intuition.
“For to neglect that to which you have been ordered, to make an order an object of surmise, and to be indifferent to your falling short of your duty, is to depart from the religion.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So how often in our experience have we received an intuition that we speculated about? We knew the right thing, but we didn't do it, and only realized later with remorse that we failed do the do the right thing. This is what it means to speculate: to make an order from God a surmise―to let the intellect think and rationalize―every excuse to not do that thing, to not act intuitively, to not follow our heart. This is how we betray God.
This is emphasized in the story of Pilate who justified the execution of Jesus. He washed his hands clean. That is our intellect, a symbol of our mind. We speculate about an intuition we receive, and we don't do the right thing. And also “to be indifferent to falling short in our duty,” to not feel remorse, is to depart from religion.
So this is the path of demons. People who feel no remorse in this instant are disconnected. They are al-kafirin, “the unbelievers” mentioned in the Qur’an.
The Moment is a Sword
The moment is a sword. It depends upon our behaviors how we use that weapon. It defends the righteous and harms the wicked.
As I have been saying, our actions determine our life. In a moment, we could defend our virtue, our soul, our life, with a virtuous action, even in the worst circumstances―or we suffer spiritual death. We fall upon our own sword by acting with anger, perversity, wrath.
“One of the sayings of the Sufis is, “The moment is a sword.” That is, in just the way that a sword severs, the present moment shows forth the influence of God’s action, ending things and bringing them to be.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
As we explained previously, states emerge, they sustain, they pass. Events also emerge, they sustain, and pass. Our divinity is the one who arranges, for the initiates, the path of the moment: the beginning and the end. Our decisions are either to follow God or our desires. They determine where we go. What happens to us.
“It is said, ‘The touch of the flat of a sword is temperate, but its blade cuts’―the one who treats it gently is safe and the one who treats it rudely is destroyed. Thus with the “now”: Whoever submits himself to its authority is saved and whoever resists it deteriorates and declines. They have recited about this:
“Like a sword, if you polish it, its touch is soothing
But its edge, if you are harsh to it, is harsh.”
―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is a beautiful teaching. If you polish your consciousness, with dhikr, remembrance of God, with meditation, with comprehension of the ego, the moment is soothing like a sword. It's touch is temperate, cool, but it's edge, if we are harsh in the moment by acting upon the moment, it is harsh. We cut ourselves. We feel pain.
“If the moment makes someone happy,
it is just a moment to him.
If it makes him miserable, it becomes something hateful.”
―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this is very beautiful. Very simple. The one who treats it gently is safe and the one who treats it really is destroyed. “Thus with the now, whoever submits himself to its authority is saved and whoever resists it deteriorates and declines.”
Self-remembrance is not complicated. If it sounds complicated or we think it is difficult, it is because we are approaching it with our intellect. Happiness is a state of the soul. It is not an intellectual concept, although we have many terms and stories and anecdotes to relate these principles. A moment that makes us happy is one, really, in which we stop thinking, stop daydreaming, stop reminiscing about the past or thinking of the future, but learning to act here and now.
The Sword of the Seekers
"Remembering God with the heart is called the sword of the seekers. With it the seeker slays his enemies [egos, defects, nafs] and drives off [karmic] troubles that are headed for him." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
It is by remembering God here and now, that we slay our enemies, which are the egos, the defects, or the nafs in Arabic―and, “drive off karmic troubles that are headed for us.” Meditation, astral projection, sacred rites of rejuvenation, runes, pranayama, alchemy: all these exercises are predicated on what we are doing here and now―how present we are when we practice.
Remembrance of God is a sword. Our states determine our life, and if we do not remember God, we act upon states of egotism. Again, God is not outside, but is inside. As the Quran teaches, "Truly We are closer to you than your jugular vein” (50:16).
By remembering that presence in us, we learn through practical life how to slay our enemies, our negative states, our defects as we are meditating, and drive off troubles that are headed for us, because if circumstances repeat, as karma and troubles emerge in our life that we have to resolve, if we respond or react with negativity, we exacerbate our pain. We complicate our issues. But if we act from serenity, we defend ourselves.
“Even if difficulty should overshadow the servant, his fleeing to God Most High in his heart immediately turns away from him the thing he hates.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Here we have an image of Saint Michael conquering the dragon, a symbol of how our soul can conquer our lower self. And notice that as he is wielding of this sword of justice, he is in a perfect state of equanimity. Remembrance of God is calm, is serene, is balanced. It is only through clear perception and serenity, awareness in the present, that we know how to act in the spontaneity of the moment.
Psychological States and External Events
Samael Aun Weor mentions in Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology, how the best method for overcoming suffering is an appropriate psychological state:
“The best weapon that a human being can use in life is a correct psychological state.
“One can disarm beasts and unmask traitors by means of appropriate internal states.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So perhaps at our job, with our friends, with our family, with our spouse, somebody approaches us with hatred, with anger, with violence. If we learn to act with an appropriate psychological state, we can disarm the situation, dismantle aggression, because serenity is a much more crushing force than anger. We can unveil the truth by acting with states of sincerity, with altruism, with integrity
"Wrong internal states convert us into defenseless victims of human perversity." ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So if we face a crisis and yet we act with ego, at our job, in our career, we become defenseless. We become weak. People and their ego overwhelm us. We become victims of life, unable to act and orient the ship of our existence. We become slaves of suffering.
"You must learn to face the most unpleasant events of practical life with an appropriate internal uprightness.
“You must not become identified with any event. Remember that everything passes away.
“You must learn to look at life like a movie; thus you shall receive the benefits.
“You must not forget that if you do not eliminate mistaken internal states from your psyche, then events of no value could bring you disgrace." ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
This means we are practicing retrospection meditation. We have to learn to comprehend the ego in the moment, observe ourselves instant by instant, moment by moment, acting upon Shari’ah, ethics. We must not identify with any event, because that wastes energy. We must not identify with external circumstances or our egotistical reactions, but to observe it like a movie so that we acquire data, information. And then later in the evening, or later in our day, we meditate upon what we saw and ask for comprehension and elimination of mistaken states from divinity.
"Unquestionably, each external event needs its appropriate fare, that is, its precise psychological state." ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
Internal states must match external events. This is a very difficult concept to understand with the intellect, but it is something where we access and gain confidence in through meditation, reflection.
Every event needs its appropriate response. Impressions of life always enter us and we are always obligated to respond. We have to examine what states in us produce conflict, which are wrong, which are negative, but also to reflect on the virtues of the soul, to understand that which benefits oneself and others in a conscious way―in a spiritual way.
The Metaphysical Moment
This is the definition of the metaphysical moment as taught by Abdullah Ansari of Herat, who was a master from the Persian tradition of Sufism. He wrote in his Stations of the Sufi Path, a beautiful teaching about different levels of the moment as understood by levels of meditators, initiates.
God, the Most High, says, “Then did you come hither as ordained, O Moses!” (20:40). ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Moses was a prophet, but he also symbolizes the principle of liberated will: a consciousness that knows how to act here and now. And in the path of initiation, Moses is associated with the causal body: the body of will power within the sixth dimension, nirvana, the sphere of Tiphereth on the Tree of Life.
It is that type of will which is liberated that knows how to perform miracles, feats of magic, which is in the positive sense, the control of elements of nature, in accordance with the will of God. So while Muslims reject anything resembling magic or magical ceremony, the truth is that the prophets were all magicians. They represented for us the magic of the Being, the magic of a purified will.
So "Then did you come hither as ordained, O Moses!" (20:40).
Meaning, “You obeyed My command,” said the Being, because at that level of a master, one can receive direct knowledge and know what to do. In our level we tend to be very confused. We have an intuition in our heart, but because we don't listen to it. We tend to commit many errors and suffer the consequences.
Let us examine the different levels of the metaphysical moment, waqt:
“The metaphysical moment or time constitutes an instant in which nothing but God can be contained.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This has to do with being absorbed in divine states, in which we don't identify with anything but that state of bliss of divinity, whether in meditation or even in daily life, which we cultivate little by little.
“The people of the metaphysical moment are three groups. For one, the metaphysical moment is like a flash of lightning, for another, it is lasting, while for another, it is overwhelming.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
These are degrees as indicated by the levels of Sufism, of instruction, of understanding.
There are introductory levels known as Shari’ah, the exoteric, the law of ethics, discipline, restraint of mind.
There is an intermediate path known as Tariqa, the mesoteric level. Tariqa can also refer to a Sufi school, and there are different Tariqas that provide the knowledge of Sufism.
Then there is an advanced knowledge or wisdom, Haqiqah / Marifah.
So for one, the metaphysical moment is like a flash of lightning for those in the introductory level. In the beginning of our path, we get insight, little by little, like a flash of lightning. We have moments of intuition and understanding, which are spontaneous. They emerge and they vanish quickly. However, we become inspired because we realize that we are perceiving God at our level, in a very basic way. This is the very beginnings of practice, which we cultivate through ethics, Shari'ah and meditation.
For the middle group, it is lasting, because for those who are really working seriously in Tariqa, a path or discipline, the mesoteric level, are making their intuitions and experiences much more consistent. Therefore the light lasts longer for them, because they are generating more light.
But for the advanced initiates, the Prophets, the Gods, the metaphysical moment is overwhelming, because that state is constant for them. This is the level of Beings like Prophet Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, Samael Aun Weor.
So obviously most of us will be in the introductory level. We gain insights here and there. We do so by learning to follow our intuition and our ethics as best we can, so that we can get more wisdom and light.
But the intermediate levels and the advanced levels are for those who are really practicing daily, seriously, for an extensive period of time.
The Three Degrees of the Moment
Abdullah Ansari of Herat also elaborates on these three stages and what they entail―from the introductory, the intermediate, and advanced levels.
For the introductory level, practitioners, “The moment that is like a flash of lightning is purifying, washing away defects.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
In the beginning, we have to learn to wash away defects. We have to observe ourselves in the day and at night, or when we practice retrospection meditation: getting comprehension like a flash of lightning and purifying our psyche. For after comprehension comes annihilation, when working with the Divine Mother, Al-Baqarah, the sacred cow mentioned in the second surah of the Qur’an.
“The moment that is lasting is awe-inspiring and keeps one occupied.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So as we are working with the death of the ego, with Tariqa, our metaphysical moments are ecstasies. They become lasting, awe inspiring and keep us occupied. What does it mean to be occupied? It means that, whether physically or the internal planes, we are awake. We are busy. I have known missionaries in Gnosis, in our tradition, who have had many beautiful samadhis, many experiences, and personally when I have been in such states, I have been very occupied in what I have been experiencing in the astral plane, the mental plane, etc. This fills us with awe.
People who are unconscious and asleep are lazy. They are not occupied. They are unconscious. They go to bed for eight hours and wake up in the morning without awareness of what happened. This is the level of profound sleep, the path of ignorance. When we have those experiences we become filled with awe, but that light only emerges and sustains based on purification, Shari'ah, ethics.
"The moment that is overwhelming destroys and annihilates." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So the moment of annihilation and destruction is of the self. This is the path of Haqiqah / Marifah, in which all sense of self is lost in the Being. This is the experience of the Truth in the highest degrees of the Tree of Life, the highest sephiroth of that diagram.
Let us examine the other requisites and degrees in the moment.
"The moment like a flash of lightning arises from contemplative reflection (fikrat)." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
For the beginner level, that flash of intuition and lightning comes about through self-observation in meditation, contemplative reflection, or serene reflection mentioned in the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We have to contemplate ourselves and reflect daily.
"The moment that is lasting arises from delight in divine remembrance and invocation." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So what does it mean to feel delight in divine remembrance and invocation? It means that we have our true joy through the work, when we are consistent, when we are defined.
That wisdom lasts in us as we take delight in the Gnostic work, when we love the Gnostic esoteric work above all things, when we invoke God every instant of our life, asking for understanding―praying for wisdom, moment-by-moment, instant-by-instant.
"The moment that is overwhelming arises from the audition of spiritual vision." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This is the level of Marifah / Haqiqah: Knowledge and Truth.
The moment that is overwhelming emerges from the audition of spiritual vision, from hearing and seeing the superior worlds, not only just from the lower sephiroth of the Tree of Life, but the top trinity and beyond. If you look at the Kabbalah, you remember that we have ten spheres―three trinities and then the lower sphere Malkuth, which is the physical body.
The levels of Sufism relate to the Tree of Life in these trinities.
The lower triangle, Yesod, Hod, and Netzach relate to our ethics (Shari’ah) because it is in those spheres where the ego manifests. They learn to control Netzach, our mind; Hod, our emotions; Yesod, our sexual energy. That is working with Shari'ah, the law, when we work with those elements consciously.
Tariqa, “the wisdom that lasts,” relates to the middle trinity: Chesed, Geburah, Tiphereth.
Chesed, the Being, the Spirit, the Innermost, Mercy; Geburah, divine consciousness; and Tiphereth, the human soul. This is the path of Tariqa, the heart, when we really remember God at that level.
And lastly, spiritual vision, which is the height: Haqiqah, the Truth and Marifah, Knowledge, relates to the top trinity of the Tree of Life. Al-Haqq can relate to Kether, Chokmah, Binah: supreme wisdom, intelligence, and the glory of divinity. But also Marifah, which is knowledge, relates with the sphere of Da’ath, alchemy, Allah-Khemia: to fuse with Allah.
If you are interested in learning more about how Sufism speaks about alchemy, you could study our lecture, Divine Love on chicagognosis.org, especially the course: The Sufi Path of Self Knowledge, from which is listed.
"The moment that is overwhelming arises from the audition of spiritual vision." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Audition refers to hearing, and usually the Sufis speak about spiritual dance and listening to beautiful music with recitations of the Qur’an and other Sufi poetry.
This verse also has something much more profound related to it. What is spiritual audition? It has to do with, again recitation, the verb, with music: all that relates to the sphere of Da’ath on the Tree of Life, the hidden sephirah, which is the origin of spiritual vision: the science and mysteries of the perfect matrimony.
To reach those supreme heights of the spiritual moment, to know how to work with the highest degrees in the moment, obviously one has to be married. So that one becomes annihilated by the presence of God through alchemy, which we will explain progressively in this course, but also we have explained in other courses too on chicagognosis.org.
"That which is like a flash of lightning makes one oblivious to the world and illuminates one's recollection of the hereafter." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So when we have intuitions and understandings, here and now, we reflect more on the course of our life. It illuminates our hopes and our understandings of where we would like to be―where we aspire to on the Tree of Life, which is the hereafter, the superior worlds. We become oblivious to the negativities and the ignorance of the world, and therefore, contemplate a higher truth: a higher reality from experience. That is the, again, Shari'ah, the path of the beginner, which leads us through the secret path, Tariqa, towards the heights, Haqiqah.
"The moment that is lasting will keep one engaged in itself rather than preoccupied with the hereafter, until the Truth becomes evident." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
What is interesting is for the beginners, we all want to go to heaven. We all want to go to the top of the Tree of Life, and we don't want to be down here. We don't want to be in the hell realms, so to speak. However, those who are really working with meditation, Tariqa, who are in “the moment that lasts,” when they are really awakening consciousness here and now, they'd rather be engaged in their work than preoccupied with the hereafter, because they understand from experience that to get to that point, they have to really work seriously―to be concerned with our daily life.
For as Samael Aun Weor mentioned, "Initiation is our own life, lived intensely, with rectitude and with love." These initiates who are really serious would rather be preoccupied with the death of the ego, engaged in the work itself, and not be preoccupied with salvation in some other world. They know that they have to get there by work, “until the Truth becomes evident.”
"The moment that is overwhelming eliminates the conditioned habits of the human state, so that the transcendent Truth alone abides." ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This is the path of Haqiqah / Marifah: those moments in which all the self is lost, annihilated, and only the Being is present in the soul.
These are the states of Prophets, the moments of our Prophet, which are very elevated. Of course, we can taste those levels if we are meditating, if we learn, first of all, to contemplate ourselves, here and now. Of course, the moment is always divided in different ways, according to the path of initiation, and according to a level of being. In order to explore this topic further, I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: My question is, I would like to know what will be the best attitude for someone who is trying to stay alert. But, you know, its is going back and forth, back and forth, you know, so sometimes you know the feeling of discouragement wants to take it away. So what will be the best attitude for someone who is in that situation and would like to keep on going?
Instructor: That is a good question. Prayer is fundamental. Prayer is essential. When we feel weak and discouraged, we have to remember our experiences, when we acted virtuously, when we acted consciously for the benefit of others. We have to really reflect on our victories, things we have done well with, our virtues. It is not enough just to meditate on the death of the ego, but the contemplate right action. Because the more we see that we are capable of acting uprightly, the more we realize that we are capable of doing this work, that it can be done.
It is very easy in this knowledge to become pessimistic. Many people see the ego and become terrified at how vast and big it is―and get discouraged. But that is not an accurate depiction of our capacities for change. To really see how much work we have to do, it is important that we recognize that we do need a lot of work, but at the same time that shouldn't mean we become morbid, pessimistic, doubtful of our abilities.
The reality is, as we are having experiences internally, we gain flashes of lightning, inspirations, understandings, which keep pushing us to change. Of course, in the beginning those moments are like flashes of inspiration. They are not lasting yet. But in order to progress from the stage of Shari'ah to Tariqa, instead of going back and forth in our practice, we have to develop consistency, to really work regardless of whether or not we think we see results. Because the results will emerge spontaneously in our day to day, instant by instant life. Moment by moment. Little by little. And not to get discouraged, because of course, it is not easy to change, given the magnitude of our faults. But we also should not be one-sided and think with shame, "Oh I am such a negative bad person." But to realize we have the virtues of God inside. As small as that may be, remember that even David killed Goliath. The Essence, the soul, killed the giant.
I recommend meditating and praying and reflecting upon the virtues of your soul―taking the time to imagine and reflect on those moments in your life in which you acted virtuously, even when it was difficult to do so, because that gives us hope. Hope is important, to have hope in ourselves and divinity, in our abilities.
So it's necessary to be balanced in meditations, but also pray a lot for that help, because you gain help in the moment, when we pray, in those moments in which we are tested. When I have been in my current job, receiving a lot of difficulties, and I can feel my ego wanting to surge and act and affect the people I work with, I pray for a lot of help, for serenity. And I have been able to find through my meditations and my self-observations, not only the ego that I must work on, but also the virtuous qualities that I need to enact in those moments.
Meditation and self-observation, in the moment, go hand-in-hand. We deepen our understanding through prayer. To pray sincerely. Ask for your Divinity to help you. You don't need a formula in order to receive help or to ask for it, but simply with whatever longings you feel. You can ask, and I recommend take your question and your prayers to meditation, and then in that way, fall asleep, and examine your dreams for the answers. In that way, we gain experiences, more of those lightning flashes, so to speak, so that we continue to develop light.
It is not enough just to reflect on the bad. We have to reflect on the good in ourselves too, because that wouldn't be realistic.
Question: I was wondering if you would say more on what you were saying about. If you are enjoying a moment, then you are enjoying. If you're sorrowful then you are in sorrow. Can you speak about the difference between questioning where you are in and examining where you are? Sometimes I feel like in examining where I am, I am sort of questioning it. But it masks as examination, but sometimes there's almost a doubt within, that examination.
Instructor: It is stated by the Sufis how the “now” is the instant. We can be occupied with states of happiness or sorrow, because even the soul, can also experience states of remorse, of regrets for wrong action, which is the different kind of pain than just the ego not being satisfied.
So examination in the strict sense has to do with looking with the consciousness here and now. One thing is the intellect labeling and doubting what we see. But unfortunately, because our intellect tends to be much more developed in us than our conscience, we have that center of gravity in the mind.
Examination is nothing to do with the intellect. As Samael Aun Weor mentions, the intellect can give itself the luxury of labeling a defect and passing it to other levels of the subconsciousness, or the unconsciousness, or infraconsciousness. Real examination has to do with seeing the mind for what it is through conscious perception [muhasabah: inner accounting]. But we can only do that by being alert to what is going on―really examining and seeing without judgment, without labeling, without repressing what the contents of our psychology are. Examination has nothing to do with saying “This is an ego, pride,” or “This is an ego, vanity,” etc., but really seeing its qualities.
Judgment―we have to reserve for later in meditation and judgment can only occur once we have fully seen an ego in action and have comprehended it in meditation, because in the moment we can see egos in our daily state, defects. However, meditation is needed to go deeper.
So, examination is twofold. Self-observation, first, is what gives us the food and the fuel for meditation. And then judgment is the comprehension we get as we are meditating―when we really understand why a certain defect behaves or acts a certain way. Where did it come from? What is its conditioning? This is the knowing “the how and the why of the mind” according to Samael Aun Weor.
This is examination. comprehension, understanding. But of course, in the beginning, it is difficult because self-observation is a faculty in us that is atrophied. We gain strength with it more and more as we discipline ourselves to pay attention, instant by instant, moment by moment.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
We mentioned that meditation is a state of consciousness. It is not a technique. Although in this tradition, we study many practices, many dynamics, many exercises that lead to this state within our daily life.
Meditative states, experiences, cognizance can always be understood through the balance of two things: study and practice. This is known as method and wisdom within Buddhism and as Samael Aun Weor, the founder of our tradition stated: “Knowledge and being must be balanced within harmoniously in order to produce comprehension.”
So, we must have knowledge of the method, what different religions teach in their very heart, how to achieve the experience, the perception of the divine. This is why we, in this tradition, study many aspects of religion, because they all teach something very valuable about how to meditate.
In the spirit of this course, we are exploring the science of meditation as taught within Sufism, although we do reference and study Buddhism, Judaism, all religions. We must always study Gnosis wherever it may be found, because the principles of Gnosis are universal, and we know from our studies that Gnosis is direct knowledge. It is cognizant experience. It is the state of meditation, of understanding. And because mediation is universal, we can always drink the wine of Gnosis from a Sufi, Buddhist or Christian cup. The religious forms are different, but the complete knowledge is the same.
The Universality of Gnosis within Religious Traditions
It’s important that we learn to drink this wine, this divine teaching, within every tradition—without exception. But we also must never pollute the purity of that knowledge with extemporaneous things, with novelties, innovations. We must not adulterate the wine of Gnosis through a bad cup, through a filthy chalice.
This is the symbol of how meditation in different traditions throughout time originally taught this teaching, this profound science. But with time and the degeneration of humanity, those religious forms have been corrupted. So, in the times of Jesus, the gospels speak about the pharisees, which can really symbolize any person from any tradition who thinks they know Gnosis, the wisdom of direct experience, but they have merely corrupted the original teaching through belief. And we have mentioned many times in our lectures and courses that belief is not real knowledge, real faith.
When we believe in something, we think it is true or we feel it is true, but we do not know. Faith is Gnosis. It is what we have experienced. It is what we have verified, and this very pure fountain of wisdom which we always must drink from, which we always must validate through our own practice, through our own experiences.
And when we have that experience, we are able to look at any religion, any teaching, and find the principles of that doctrine, to recognize it, to know it, because we have seen it for ourselves. We know it for ourselves. But the pharisee, a type of psychology that thinks it knows, but does not, is prevalent in any tradition. As Jesus of Nazareth stated, the pharisees wash the outside of the cup, but not the inside, which is a symbol of the soul. It also can refer to a religion’s tradition, meditative traditions, where the principles of this doctrine have been lost, because people, thinking that they know and understand the scriptures from experience, they mix that wisdom with impurity.
Also, this is why Jesus stated, we must pour new wine in new wine-skins. It means to have a psychological attitude that is investigative, to open one’s mind to the new. And to simply experiment.
We have to look at these practices and really test them from our own experience, to really have genuine faith, to really know. This is a conundrum or a catch 22 for students who approach any tradition. They are inspired to want to know themselves, to study themselves, to experience divinity. But because we are so corrupt with ego, we often do not know where to look for that wisdom, and so in the beginning we are blind. This is why there is a great danger in the beginning for students: to simply attach themselves to any teaching without verifying or testing it, to accept and believe in it with their minds and hearts, but without awakening the consciousness.
We study all religions. We drink gnosis, direct experience, not only from the writings of Samael Aun Weor but from the Sufis, from the Buddhist masters, from the great Kabbalists of Israel. This indicates that we have to know how to read, to understand. We have to learn how to verify. We have to experiment. This is why we study all religions, unanimously. We look at their essential principles, to know what they all teach in their essence, so that we do not become confused or intoxicated by the wine of theories, of belief systems, of merely accepting or rejecting the doctrine in our mind and heart without really comprehending the value of it.
So, Gnosis again, is real faith. It is witnessing real divinity, which the Muslims call Shahada, the declaration of faith. There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Prophet. We explain the meaning of that term, Shahada, which relates to mushahada in Arabic, signifying mediation.
So, we are going to further explore the principles of meditation according to Sufism, in order to fill a very severe need in our studies. Many people are not familiar with how mediation is taught in the Sufi teaching, how Gnosis is within Sufism.
As we were talking about the allegory of the cup, we also have to be very careful when we study. Gnosis is often the mixed, the principles of meditation are often mixed with corruption.
Every tradition in time degenerates. It is a law of nature. It has happened with Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and even today in the Gnostic tradition.
It is because the root knowledge is often overlooked, untaught or forgotten. To have real wisdom is based on experiencing the truth for ourselves, and in this way, we do not get lost. We do not get confused when we see or hear things that are not in coherence, do not correlate with what we have verified, and this is the importance of studying the divine law and the way, in harmony.
The divine law is that we serve divinity through our practices. The way is that we experience the truth. And in this way, in our process of developing both knowledge and being, studying the tradition and meditation, no matter where it is found―we also test and experiment, we verify. We always look at the principles of a teaching, to see what is pure, what is true, and then we disregard that which is superfluous, corrupted, unnecessary.
The Definition of Principles
I would like to define for you what the word principle means as we are opening this discussion. In the online dictionary, a principle “is a fundamental truth, a proposition that serves as the foundation of a system of belief or behavior or for a change of reasoning.”
A principle is a fundamental law or truth. It is what we can verify, what we can experience. This becomes a foundation for a system, which in this definition refers to “belief.” Or in this definition refers to belief, which is inaccurate.
While principles always make up any religion, in our studies we do not believe in these things. Some people may and they can teach what they like, they can get many followers because they really believe that they know. But we have to go beyond the surface and really get at the heart of what a teaching, a school, a method entails.
Principles can also refer to a code of behavior, which we spoke about very abundantly in the previous lecture on the nature of the divine law, and ethics.
It also can support a chain of reasoning, of understanding, of comprehension.
So, in the beginning of our studies we read, we reflect, we comprehend the knowledge with the mind. We learn the terminology, the explanations, but more importantly we have to apply what we read. This is the balance of knowledge and being. This is the balance that leads us and conducts us towards integrity, to comprehension.
A principle also is “a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field.” It can be a law, principles like gravity. These are tangible experiences. These are truths that are not merely just a concept. It is a factual element of life.
While the principles of meditation pertain to our mystical states, they refer to how we live our life daily. What we know, what we see, what we verify. We know that if we act with anger, we will suffer. This is a principle or law of human behavior, of ethics. Which is why ethics is always the foundation of any tradition in order to really enter meditation.
As we stated, we find Gnosis in all religions, without exception. Just because Gnosis was the heart of those traditions, not everything that was taught in those faiths has been sustained, has lived, has not been corrupted. It’s sad to say, there are many people who take the principles of meditation, the principles of Gnosis, the teachings of Samael Aun Weor, or Sufism or Judaism or Buddhism, and they adulterate them with drugs, with politics, sectarianism, fanaticism. Many even attribute these qualities to the original heart of the founders of the religions themselves. This is very sad. It creates a lot of confusion, a lot of conflict.
People project their concepts onto the knowledge, and that is how one adulterates the knowledge. Because of a lack of genuine ethics, of following the divine law, many so called spiritual people have driven people away from the actualization or study of themselves. We find this in every faith, especially Islam, which is a tradition that has been greatly abused.
Hopefully, after this course, you will find that the principles of Gnosis are very alive within the original writings, which we always have to examine in light of our own experience and through teachings by Samael Aun Weor, who gives a very cohesive and comprehensive perspective, a practical wisdom that can aid us in understanding these things for ourselves.
As Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Revolution of Beelzebub:
“It is absurd to adulterate Gnosis with different teachings because the Christian Gospels prohibit adultery. It is absurd to conceive of Gnosis without the Maithuna, sexual magic.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of Beelzebub
We will make some references to that teaching, tantrism, sacred alchemy, with our discussion of essential principles today.
“We can drink the wine of Gnosis (divine wisdom) within a Greek, Buddhist, Sufi, Aztec, Egyptian, etc., cup, yet we must not adulterate this delicious wine with strange doctrines.” ―Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Revolution of Beelzebub:
This means that, we look at what the Sufis wrote, what the Gnostics wrote, and we verify. We look at those traditions with the eye of discrimination and selectivity. We have to look at the essential principles of these traditions and to understand them from experience. There is no other way.
The way must be validated through the divine law and the divine law must be validated through the way.
So, in this way, Bayazid Bastami, a Sufi initiate, stated “The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it.”
So, we can never seek for genuine knowledge, just through mere intellectual pursuit. We have to understand these things through practice. So genuine seeking is through daily meditation, daily experience.
The Fundamentals of Meditation: Study and Practice
So how should we approach meditation? To emphasize my previous point, we have to look at the original scriptures. We have to look at the original writings, before commentators or commentary derived from those root sources. Whether we study Buddhism or Sufism or any teaching, we have to look at the founding documents, the original verb, the fundamentals of religion. To really look at it with a clear mindset, an attitude of investigation.
The following is from a Sufi book called Al-Risalah, known as Principles of Sufism, written by a master by the name of Al-Qushayri. His writings were often used by the Sufi master Rumi, amongst the Mevlevi Sufis, his disciples. It is a very rich book that you can study if you wish to understand the principles of Sufism, the principles of Gnosis. We quote from this book extensively because it is a very pure document. If I give testimony of this, it is because it is a text that I have investigated many times and have had experiences internally about, in the astral plane, in the mental plane, beyond.
We have to learn to investigate the written word and to reflect deeply on what we read to balance study and practice, method and wisdom. This is what it means when Al-Jurayri was quoted in this book:
“A clear vision of the fundamentals of religion comes about through the application of their derivative principles, and the derivatives are corrected by comparing them against the original sources. There is no way to the station of contemplation (meditation, mushahada) of states except by esteeming as great the means and principles that God has esteemed to be great.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So, the fundamentals of religion refer to the Latin religare, reunion, unification with divinity. We must study and apply, more importantly, derivative principles. What are these principles? Serenity, concentration, faith, ethical behavior, codes of conduct, divine love. These are qualities of mind, of consciousness, qualities of the soul that we can develop intentionally, so as to achieve re-unification with our inner God. We have to study and apply these principles in our daily life through our ethical behavior. The derivatives refer to qualities of consciousness that originate from those laws.
So, a principle is a law, a law of nature, whether in the physical plane or in the internal planes.
What principles do we enact in our life in order to obtain religion? What do we do on a daily basis to guarantee we will experience and know the state of our inner Being, our inner God? What about our life derives from these principles?
By fulfilling ethical conduct, what is the derivative, what is the result in our factual daily life? We have to investigate this. But to know these principles, we can study. This is the beauty of Sufism. It teaches us the level of Being, what we are psychologically, what are the virtues of the soul. So, when we comprehend and eliminate certain defects, we enact ethical behavior and really comprehend our faults. We develop the virtues of the Being in us. We derive genuine contentment, happiness, liberation by following these laws of the soul.
Sufism is very beautiful for that understanding. It teaches us about the virtues of the Being. We can experience these things if we are working seriously. So, “these derivatives are corrected by comparing them against the original sources.”
Another meaning is, we can study the writings of many teachers whether from Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism, Gnosticism. But whenever we really study a tradition, we have to really look at the founder of those faiths. We have to look at the original sources to analyse them, to really understand them, intellectually at first, and then through our experience. So, what I mean by the original sources is the writings of the Buddha, the sutras, the tantras. The writings of Padmasambhava. In Islam, the Qur’an. In the Gnostic tradition, the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We have to look at the original writings of the prophets, beings who really demonstrated a high level of integrity and understanding, the writings of Jesus or the scriptures about Christ. We have to look at these original sources, compare them to everything else that came after, because the writings or teachings of the prophets have precedence. They have the most light or knowledge.
We have to study where the light is most pure and learn to compare what came afterwards with the sense of integrity and discrimination, because impurity comes later. The light initiates, but the shadow emerges afterwards.
It is good to really be studious. It doesn’t mean we just become bookworms. It means we develop our understanding with a lot of patience and practice, because “there is no way to the stage of contemplation, the witnessing of divine states except by esteeming as great the means and principles that God has esteemed to be great” in the teaching of the prophets. They gave methods and means, principles of divinity, laws of the cosmos that are really divine.
We have to really understand what these laws are for ourselves because there is a system. There is a way. There is a path. It is specific. It is based on laws. It is not a belief or a concept to adopt, a behavior to imitate superficially. It is a code of conduct, a way of acting consciously. It is the fulfillment of law, the law of causality. Because the soul cannot be created, the consciousness cannot be developed, if we do not apply the principles or laws that ensure its fulfillment in us. Just as there is a law of gravity, there is a law for developing the soul.
If we wish to return to God, we have to learn to adopt and practice and understand how those laws of divinity operate based on facts. And in this way, when we see how this teaching works, how ethics works, how compassion is really the essence of religion, of harmonizing communities, of bringing real peace and love in our own life and the lives of others―we realize with awe that it is a beautiful knowledge. It is a great thing, that is so wonderful that it is incomprehensible to the mind.
When we experience those states of beatitude, of compassion, of serenity, it truly transforms us. This is how we empower our practice, when we have those experiences. But first we have to study and apply the knowledge. We have to know the principles of God, the principles of meditation, and to work very diligently to experience them. But not out of craving, the desire that wants to have some kind of Samadhi or mystical experience, but simply changing our daily life, working on behaviors that make us suffer, so that we can obtain a state of knowledge, the certainty that certain ways of behaving are wrong, create problems and certain ways of behaving also produce harmony, happiness. This is how we inspire ourselves and this is how we develop certainty, real faith that this knowledge works.
Certainty in Meditation
This is why we are going to examine some writings from the Qur’an that talk a lot about this nature of certainly, of real faith. So, everybody in this knowledge, this teaching of Samael Aun Weor, wants to develop certainty. Every practitioner who is really applying meditation wants to have that verification of the truth, wants to have a foundation, an experience―to really know that we know and that we have experienced God, that we know divinity, in whatever level, because there are degrees of knowledge, but also there are degrees of certainty.
There are some very beautiful teachings within this Muslim scripture. I will preface this discussion by saying the Qur’an is a very closed book. It is a book for initiates, people who are really walking the path of meditation, of the science of alchemy (from the Arabic Allah and the Greek khēmeia), to fuse oneself with divinity in the perfect matrimony, and also the study of Kabbalah.
We know that Kabbalah is the Jewish mysticism, and we will talk about the Tree of Life near the end of this lecture, how the Hebrew kabbel means “to receive” knowledge that we are certain of from experience, relating to our physical life and internal life. Just as there is Kabbalah within the Jewish tradition, we also have Kabbalah in the Arabic tradition, because Arabic and Hebrew, the Semitic languages, share the same roots. They are very ancient.
We always must study the science of meditation, the science of alchemy, if we are married. If we are a single person, we can practice many exercises that work with energy so as to awaken consciousness. This is the science of transmutation, of mutating the creative force of our body into understanding, into light.
The Three Forms of Certainty
There are three forms of certainty within the Qur’an which can help us to understand the whole map of meditation and our own experiences. I have included the Qur’anic verses where you find these terms mentioned and I will read for you excerpts from the Qur’an that talk about these principles. There is the knowledge of certainty ilm al-yaqin. There is the seeing of certainty, ayn al-yaqin, and there is the truth of certainty ḥaqq al-yaqin.
So, what is the knowledge of certainty? It refers to what we know with the intellect. It can study a religion, a system, a principle, a faith. We can have a certain level of certainty in our mind, intellectually that we know. We learn the theory, the concepts, the languages, the terms. We see how the system works, at least in the mind. We have concepts that are organised, a type of rationalization which is necessary in the beginning. This is why when we talked about the definition of principles, it is also “a fundamental truth for supporting a chain of reasoning.” This knowledge is very logical. It is very dynamic, concrete.
Knowledge of certainty refers to things making sense in our readings and our studies, because we have to have that knowledge in the intellect first.
However, we can’t just leave that there. We have to really see with certainty what those principles entail. This is the second level of certainty, ayn al-yaqin.
Al-yaqin means "certainty." Ilm means "knowledge" and ayn, if you studied Kabbalah, refers to sight, the eyes of perception.
To see with certainty means we have experienced what that knowledge entails. We can be reading about astral projection, dream yoga, meditation, samadhi and have that knowledge of certainty in our intellect, of what that teaching entails. This is good, but the next step is to really practice and to experience and see that truth for ourselves. So not just hearing about an astral projection or reading about it, but actually experiencing it for yourself. That is ayn al-yaqin, the seeing of certainty. It is what we have verified.
But there is an even deeper level to that knowledge. Ḥaqq al-yaqin, the truth of certainty. This is a very profound level of knowledge and we mentioned in our previous lecture that Haqiqah is the truth, the highest teaching of yoga, of religion, of meditation. It is the profound knowledge Maʿrifa of the truth Al-Ḥaqq, which is one of the names of Allah in the Qur’an.
To have the truth of certainty means not only just having an astral projection, which is very beautiful, very powerful, very profound. It means to have a tremendous samadhi in which the soul is lost within the Being, in which we become the Being. The Being manifests in us, a state of happiness and liberation that is truly undefinable, profound, beyond words.
It means to be completely free of the ego. There is no ego there. No “I.” No “me” nor “myself.” There is only Al-Ḥaqq, the Truth, which is why the Sufi master, Mansur al-Hallaj stated before the orthodox Muslims, “Ana 'l-Ḥaqq.” He said, “I Am the Truth!” which of course scandalized those people who were very fanatic and religious, institutionalized, dogmatic, because Ḥaqq is one of the names of God, and basically, he said “I am God.”
However, people did not understand that it wasn’t Mansur Al-Hallaj who said that. It was the truth within him saying that. Just as Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I Am.” Only divinity can say that, and that’s a very high level of attainment, the level of a master who is reaching perfection.
It is very profound, and don’t think that you cannot have that experience to a degree in the beginning, because your Being can give you that knowledge, that certainty, if He wants. You just have to be diligent about your work, but don’t get confused after those experiences thinking that we are God, because we are not. We know from experience what divinity is. We have the truth of certainty. We know it. But we return back to our body, from our experiences from dream yoga or whatever, and then we learn to walk our daily life, to continue working, because the experience of the truth does not mean the complete realization of that truth.
Mythomania and the Death of the Ego
In order to self-realize we need to annihilate the ego. This is the problem with certain people in our tradition who have an experience of the truth, the truth of certainty. They unite with God and then they come back saying “I am the Master So-and-so… Follow me!” This has led to many problems in the movement, because experience of the truth is temporary. Self-realization is something else. This is not to denigrate those experiences, because we need those experiences. We need to have truth of certainty in meditation.
We need to know these things for ourselves, but it doesn’t mean that we become mythomaniacs. It’s a term we use in this knowledge, to make a myth of manas, myth of mind. The mind thinking it is God. It is not [Editor’s Note: the term mania is well known as a delirious state of grandeur within psychotherapy and studies on mental illness. See the Spiritual and Mental Health Course for more information on this topic].
So, the consciousness can experience the truth, can see the truth. The mind can have knowledge of certainty knowledge of the truth and the intellect, but the actual experience is something else. The consciousness is not the mind. The consciousness can see with more or less clarity, but to know the truth of certainty we have to be free of ego, even if just for a temporary moment in our meditations.
States of the Truth
The Sufi Master Ibn 'Arabi stated that, “knowledge of certainty is like hearing about a fire.” He said that the “seeing of certainty is like seeing a fire, and the truth of certainty is being burnt by fire.” Degrees of knowledge, degrees of experience. But don’t think these types of states are inaccessible to you. Many people hear about these truths and they become overwhelmed, feeling like it is impossible for them to know this truth, to know these experiences for themselves.
This is why in the Qur’an, chapter 50, verses 15 through 16, states:
“Did We fail in the first creation? But they are in confusion over a new creation. And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein.” ―Al-Qaf 15-16
There is a lot of interesting teachings in this verse. “Did We fail in the first creation?” says divinity. This first creation is the birth of our body, our physical conception. When speaking about people who don’t really practice mediation, they are in confusion over a new creation. This new creation is the soul, the soul that we develop. The body is one thing. The soul is another. We have to create the consciousness, build consciousness, develop consciousness. In this way we form the true man, the true Hum-man. Hum means spirit in Sanskrit. Man or manas means mind [Hu is also a mantra amongst Sufi schools, representing the breath of God]. A mind that is fully united with divinity, the spirit, that is a true Hum-man.
Divinity in the Qur’an states, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him.” This is a very high level to attain, to be a real man or a true human being, a woman. “And We are closer to him than his jugular vein.”
People think divinity is far away, but God is with us in every moment. This is why is Ihsan (beautiful action) is to act as if we see God even if we do not, because surely He sees us.
Divinity, the Being, has been given many names in the Qur’an. He is:
We work with meditation, we work with exercises of energy known as transmutation, and we work to serve humanity, to help humanity. We learn these states of being, through applying the principles of meditation. This is what leads us to the three forms of certainty.
We have to learn how to first study what these qualities are, but then we have to see them from experience, and if we are really serious, our Being will enter us and help us, will manifest in our deeds, will manifest and express in our daily life as these qualities: Al-Murid, "The Willing"; Al-Raḥman, "The Compassionate"; Al-Raḥim, "The Merciful"; Al-Alim, "The All-Knowing"; Al-Wadud, "The Loving"; Al-Khaliq, "The Creator"―principles, laws of the soul, laws of divinity, which are very high.
Qur’anic Verses on the Three Certainties
We can taste these in meditation and in our daily life if we are working seriously, working daily. So, it is a means to have knowledge and seeing of certainty. I will read for you some excerpts from the Qur’an where we find these verses, these terms. The knowledge and seeing of certainty are found in Surah 102, known as Al-Takathur: “Rivalry in Worldly Increase.”
This scripture refers to how people, when they approach meditation, or they approach religion, are often afflicted by desire for pursuing worldly things. To have real knowledge of certainty and seeing of certainty is to contemplate the inevitability of death, because if we don’t live our life seriously with this type of knowledge, we don’t know where we are going to go when we die. But if we awaken our perception, we develop the seeing of certainty, we can know everything, then we can generally access the truth.
“Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you
Until you visit the graveyards.
No! You are going to know.
Then no! You are going to know.
No! If you only knew with knowledge of certainty...
You will surely see the Hellfire
(states of suffering, the future that awaits those that do not eliminate the ego).
Then you will surely see it with the eye of certainty.
Then you will surely be asked that Day about pleasure”
(meaning vain worldly pleasures). ―Al-Takathur
So, if we are serious about meditation, and many times and in many traditions, students are asked to meditate about the certainty of their own death, the death of the body. This is in order to develop commitment to the path. If we are serious about our spirituality, we realise that we cannot waste our time on superfluous things, because eventually we will go to the grave and enter into the internal worlds.
If we are asleep in this physical world, we won’t have certainty of that state of consciousness when we die. This is a very scary thing to think about, because when we physically go to sleep, we black out for eight hours, typically, and we do not remember anything. This indicates that we are asleep consciously in the physical world. However, if we want to have real experiences, real certainty of the afterlife, we have to awaken here and now.
The truth of certainty is given in Surah 56 Al-Waqi’ah (The Inevitable) of which we will read a few excerpts.
“Indeed, it is a noble Qur’an in a register well protected. None touch it except for the purified.” ―Al-Waqi’ah 77-79
So, the Qur’an in Arabic means recitation. It is recorded as a scripture in the internal planes according to the Sufis, guarded by the Elohim or Buddhas, the angels, the masters. It is only accessible to those who are purifying themselves, for those who have the truth of certainty.
What does it mean to be purified? It means to work on our own mind, our own egotism, our defects. If we do not comprehend our own errors and work to eliminate them, we cannot develop our spiritual sight. We cannot awaken within the internal dimensions. The reason why we may not have experiences in the beginning is because of our own psychological obscurations, our defects. If you wish to see the internal worlds, wish to see within meditation what we are, we must remove the veil of our understanding, of the mind.
So, like any scripture, we can only interpret when we are pure, when we have awakened our consciousness. We move beyond the knowledge of certainty. We see it for ourselves and by the grace of divinity we can have that truth unveiled in its totality.
“It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. Then is it to this statement that you are indifferent and make the thanks for your provision that you deny the Provider?” ―Al-Waqi’ah 80-82
Many people are indifferent, even in Gnosis. What does it mean to be indifferent to any religious or spiritual teaching? It means to be asleep. To not feel the urgency to want to change. If we do not feel that longing in our heart to want to know and to give thanks to our inner divinity, it means that we are very hypnotized by our own mind. We are indifferent. We are cold, lukewarm according to the Bible. But anyone of us who is studying this type of knowledge feels a spiritual inquietude, the impetus of the Being that is pushing us to work, to develop the genuine truth of certainty in ourselves. The way we can develop this further is to meditate on our own death. Which is why the Qur’an states:
“Then why, when the soul at death reaches the throat and you are at that time looking on, and our angels are nearer to him than you, but you do not see. Then why do you not, if you are not be recompensed, bring it back if you should be truthful? And if the deceased was of those brought near to Allah, then for him is rest and bounty and a garden of pleasure.” ―Al-Waqi’ah 83-89
So many people lead their life mechanically and then they die, not knowing where they will go or where thy came from, and this is very sad. Anyone of us who is studying meditation is pushed by our own inner God. We have the longings to want to really see the mysteries of life and death, to be inspired. It is this inspiration that pushes us to experiment, to know, because we fear and we have that anxiety that we do not know where we are going and that if we do not work on our own conduct, we may end up in states of suffering worse than our present life, because the divine law is cause and effect. We will reap what we sow.
And if we think that we will not be recompensed for our wrong action, then simply look at our life. If we are honest, “bring your proof if you are truthful!” We cannot deny the law of causality. It is in every aspect of nature and the universe. There is this law of Shariah, the divine law.
But if we are brought near to our inner Being, Allah, through meditation, through practice, “then for him or her is rest and bounty in a garden of pleasure.”
“And if he was of the companions of the right (those people who are following this path), then the angels will say, ‘Peace for you, you are from companions of the right.’ But if he was one of the deniers who went astray (the people who feed their ego, who do not work on their mind), then for him is the accommodation of scaling water and burning in hell fire.” ―Al-Waqi’ah 90-94
What is this left-hand path and right-hand path? We will not go into too much detail here, but the right-hand path refers to people who are working to incarnate the Being, who are eliminating the ego. The left-hand path is often referred to as the path of the sorcerers, of black magicians, people who fortify desire and who enter states of suffering which are very intense.
So “Indeed, this is the true certainty. So exalt the name of your Lord, the Most Great.” That is the end of that Surah.
This is true certainty, and many people often get very afraid when they read the Qur’an. They see the language as very strong, mentioning damnation and hell fire and states of suffering, and become very afraid and very averse to this tradition. But if we waken our consciousness in the internal planes, we find that we are recompensed for what we do. It is the law of nature. If we are good people, we develop our conduct and develop certainty, we know that we will go to better states when physically the body dies. But if we are passionate, filled with hatred, with violence, with adultery, with sarcasm, with Phariseeism, fanaticism, egotism, we will naturally follow the trajectory of our own actions. This is the truth of certainty. The law, the truth, Al-Ḥaqq. It is the way to see how to get out of that, and meditation aids us in that process.
Psychological Work and the Signs of God
Everybody in Gnosis wants to have experiences, as I have been stating. Many people start to practice meditation and do not have experiences. They become very frustrated and discouraged. This happens often and it is a normal process, because it is not easy to first work on our mind, and that’s the priority in this tradition. We do not seek to have experiences, though they are very beautiful and necessary, but the priority is working on our own defects.
This is why it says in the Qur’an Surah 2 as Al-Baqara, verse 118:
“Those who have no knowledge (ilm or marifah in Arabic) say why does not Allah speak to us or come to us a sign?” ―Al-Baqarah 118
Meaning through some kind of meditative experience.
“So said those who were before them, words similar to what they say. Alike are their hearts.” ―Al-Baqarah 118
What does it mean that their hearts are alike? If they want to have experiences, they’re attached to the concept of having Samadhi or mystical vision. For their hearts are lukewarm, their hearts have not been purified.
Remember that we stated in the Qur’an that the Qur’an is only read by those who are purified, and can only be understood in that way. Prophet Muhammad taught in the Hadith, the oral tradition of Islam, “There is an organ in the body which, when it is pure, affects the whole health of the organism. When it is impure it pollutes everything. This organ is the heart, and the polish of the heart is Dhikr, remembrance of God.”
It is like a mirror. If you polish your heart through ethical conduct, your heart can reflect the heavens. Then experience comes naturally, easily. This is why the Qur’an states:
“We have certainly made the signs clear for the people who have certainty.” ―Al-Baqarah 118
We have verified it. But of course, certainty of the truth only comes about by working on the ego, which is why Al-Qushayri in his book Principles of Sufism stated:
“Uncertainty, knowledge does not come about except by the prior fulfillment of its conditions. That is, one must examine things in a pertinent and relevant way.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So, this is the beginning, as we were stating. Study the doctrine, memorize it, develop certainty of knowledge. Be pertinent and relevant. Look at those things in your daily life that you want to change the most and look at the aspects of the doctrine that are most relevant to that.
Some people study Kabbalah first, some people psychology, meditation, alchemy. We have to study all these things together in their relationship, but how our study unfolds is natural to us, our own idiosyncrasy. We have to examine things in a very relevant way. Study meditation, how to practice it and apply it to your life. This is what is most important, pertinent.
When we are studying these things and applying these things:
“The when the hints of the divine become continuous and clear demonstrative evidence has been obtained, the perceiver (the meditator), through the succession of lights and his deep reflection upon them, becomes seemingly independent of the consideration of proof.“ ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
As we are practicing, we may experience many things. We develop evidence from our own experience. It is demonstrative. It is factual. Some people when they are meditating may see lights, images, scenes pulling out or playing out within their consciousness. Some people have visions, astral experiences, jinn experiences. When deeply reflecting on these qualities, through time, experience and practice, we become seemingly independent of the consideration of proof. Meaning we are no longer filled with the desire to want to prove these things egotistically.
The desire or the mind says, “I want to know,” but this frustration is the obstacle. We can deeply reflect on these truths, but we do not necessarily crave the understanding or experience. It will appear in our consciousness when we stop thinking about it.
When we silence our mind, relax our mind and withdraw our senses from the physical world, from our body, when the mind is serene and calm, our heart is purified. The deep reflection, the lights of divinity can reflect in us. “This is the state of certainty.” That is when we know we have experiences.
But first polish the mirror. As Rumi stated, “Your goal is not to seek after love, but to merely remove the causes and conditions that have prevented you from knowing it.” Meaning, remove the ego, and in that way we grow spiritually.
The Tree of Life: A Map of Consciousness
When we study the principles of meditation, we are going to study the Tree of Life in its synthesis. The Tree of Life on the left is the map of Kabbalah, is the levels of consciousness, levels of being, which the Sufis speak abundantly about without using the Hebrew language.
We won’t explain all the dynamics of this Tree of Life, but merely introduce it in the context of our discussion, because this map helps us to understand where we are, where we are in our meditation. We have to learn this Tree of Life very deeply, its levels of consciousness, levels of being, so that when we study any scriptures, such as the Qur’an, we can interpret with clarity, with understanding. In this way we apply these principles to our life, so that we can really deepen our meditative practice.
For example, we have the lower seven sephiroth, which means spheres [emanations] in Hebrew. It is a map of the multi-dimensionality of our universe, of the different dimensions of the cosmos, but also of our own psyche.
We have Malkuth, the physical body.
We have Yesod, the energetic, ethereal or vital forces which permeates our physicality and gives it life.
We have Hod, our emotional vehicle or body of dreams. We operate in this vehicle when we enter the dream world, which we navigate in those planes of experience when the physical body is asleep.
Likewise we have Netzach, which is our mind, our thoughts.
We have Tiphereth, our willpower or human soul. It is the beauty of the soul, which the Muslims have referred to with the name Hassan. Hassan reminds us of Ihsan, meaning: beautiful action. It is through our own will that we can act beautifully through divinity, which is our consciousness.
Geburah, meaning justice in Hebrew, is the consciousness, our sense of right and wrong.
Our intuition which tells us what to do, how to act. Sometimes our will in daily life may act egotistically, may follow our own mind or emotions, may misuse our vital energies and the physical body.
Or other times we learn to use our will, to follow our hunches, our spiritual inquietudes, our conscience, which is Geburah, the divine soul.
In this way we learn to practice ethics, so that we can experience the spirit, Al-Ḥaqq, the Truth, Chesed.
On the right we see an image of a Tree of Life within Islam, because the Muslims didn’t explicitly teach about this Tree of Life, although in their writings you can understand those principles, if we are informed, which is part of the purpose of this course, so we can look at these principles and apply them to our studies.
Meditation is experience for when we learn to work with the Tree of Life in us. Calm the body, rest our vital energies, such as through mantras, sacred sounds, alchemy, runes, pranayama, sacred rights of rejuvenation.
We calm our heart through prayer, through humility, through polishing our emotional center, our emotional qualities.
We silence and calm our mind. Withdraw our senses from the physical body, our energies, our emotions, our thoughts.
We concentrate our willpower in order to reflect within, to follow our intuition, our consciousness. In that way we can have experiences of the spirit.
That’s a very synthetic way of talking about this dynamic. We will come back to this again and again, but I merely wanted to introduce this Tree of Life in the context of our course, because we will go very deep into these principles.
Silence and Insight
So, what are these essential principles of meditation that we have been discussing? In the Gnostic tradition, we have concentration and imagination, produces the state of meditation.
Concentration is the ability to focus on one thing, without thinking of anything else.
Imagination is our capacity to perceive images of a nonphysical type. So, if I was to ask you to imagine an apple, you can see it in your mind. It is not physical, but we perceive images that are not physical. That’s a very simple example of this quality. It is the capacity to perceive internal imagery, such as through dreams.
If we wish to have that type of perception very developed, we have to work with many exercises to develop our imagination, which we will be explaining in this course.
Concentration is when we are able to focus on one thing with our willpower, our attention, without being distracted.
We develop our concentration through ethics. If our mind is wild, we can’t concentrate or focus on one thing when we sit to practice, if we are engaging in unethical behavior all day.
We feed our anger, our mind becomes agitated. We feel lust, we pollute our mind stream with conditions of mind, desire, which are contrary to the state of imagination. We can’t see clearly if the mind is chaos.
This is the meaning of polishing the heart. The heart is developed through our ethics. When the heart is polished, we can reflect the images of God, and this is the state of meditation. So, this is the Gnostic conception of this dynamic.
Concentration, imagination equals meditation, the state of comprehension.
The Buddhists refer to this as Shamatha and Vipassana, which relates and completes Samadhi, mystical experience.
The Sufis refer to this dynamic as silence and insight, which refers to witnessing the truth.
They all teach the same thing. While you may be familiar with the Buddhist conception or the gnostic teaching of this dynamic, we are going to explore these principles according to Sufism.
So, by obtaining silence of mind, serenity of mind, we develop understanding or insight. We can see things clearly in us. And of course, there are many practices to develop serenity, concentration, and there are also practices to develop imagination.
The Key to Successful Worship
To conclude, in order to develop certainty in us, to develop real worship of divinity, we have to combine silence and insight, according to the Sufis. Serenity and visualization, concentration, imagination. Dhul-Nun al-Misri was a Sufi initiate who wrote the following:
“The key to success and worship lies in meditative reflection, fikrat. Whoever persists in such reflection in the heart will behold the invisible realm in the spirit.” ―Dhul-Nun al-Misri
So, this means: polish your mind, polish your heart, act ethically, develop compassion for others, especially when you are tempted to behave in negative ways. Work on anger. Look in yourself at anger. See it for what it is. Comprehend it. reflect upon it. See it. Develop serenity in you so that when you are working on your mind in mediation, you can go deep.
Reflect on yourself, be deep, be profound. In this way we awaken our consciousness to behold the invisible realm, the Tree of Life, in the spirit.
“Whosoever contemplates God through keeping watch over their thoughts which pass through his heart will be exalted by God and in all his outward deeds.” ―Dhul-Nun al-Misri
This is the meaning of “Truly We are closer to you then your jugular vein.” Whomsoever acts by working on their own mind, their own thoughts, by what they can perceive, here and now, will learn to purify themselves. It is only by purifying our mind, by acting ethically that we develop genuine serenity, silence, and eventually insight and understanding.
So, we will be examining these principles very deeply, in the coming months. I would like to invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: I have a question in regard to an indifferent approach. My question is that in a lot of Samael’s teachings, he talks about how we should also have an attitude of indifference towards the studies, not necessarily what you meant as how I understood it, which was to approach it with a state of equanimity (as of that indifference). Not like the attitude of what you said, like laziness, not having the fuel to go after those experiences. Could you please expand a little on that?
Instructor: Absolutely. Very good comment. What Samael Aun Weor mentions about practicing with indifference, has to do with, as you said, being neutral. Having a state of equanimity, not being driven by passion or craving to have experiences, but neither wanting to reject what we see, but to verify and to test.
So, there are two forms of indifference, as you mentioned, and that we were talking about. One is to be in a state of equanimity and to be scientific―test and verify. Look at what the teachings provide. Practice them, but do not expect an immediate reward. Neither fear what the outcome may be, but simply work with them and try them with an open mind.
This is the meaning of pouring new wine in new wine skins, or a new cup, a fresh cup. We learn to drink that experience and those practices by trying them, and seeing what works from experience. But the other term of indifference is (in terms of the Qur’anic language) not really caring about or having an inspiration to want to practice at all.
So, it’s a very different thing as you know. One thing is to practice with the neutral, equanimitous state of mind, but one thing is to be so lazy and intellectual to not want to try anything at all. The latter state is very common in the Gnostic movement, or any tradition really. People may like to study intellectually and are very fascinated by theory and they have the knowledge of certainty of things, but they are really lukewarm when it comes to dedication. Dedication is fulfilled when we practice this science
Question: Would it be accurate to say that serving humanity, showing compassion to others, helping in a soup kitchen for e.g. is wonderful and great thing to do, but to really serve humanity is to act ethically, to not act of negative emotions, not act out of the “I’s,” try not to dominate moments or always be right or point out how others are wrong? Is it accurate to say serving humanity is ethics?
Instructor: Absolutely, because any type of service becomes corrupt if we do it with our desires. If we are working on our anger, our pride, our fear and our negative internal states, that’s going to be the greatest form of worship. It is what Dhul-Nun al-Misri teaches too, and many other Sufis.
While we do not negate the need to want to help other people, we perfect that art when we are being patient with ourselves and other people. In terms of serving humanity, we have our jobs, we have our careers. We have certain services that we are doing to genuinely help others, but that quality of that service is contingent upon our own mental states.
So, they go both hand in hand, but more importantly if we are going to serve well, we have to work on our ego. That is really the greatest form of sacrifice and service, because we can work at job that we really hate, that is very difficult and yet it is where our Being needs us to be.
Personally, I have a job that is very difficult. I work with very difficult clients who test me all the time, who are very negative, and many times I have wanted to quit my job. I have wanted to leave because its been a very painful process. But I found that my Being has put me there, and I have verified this through experiences many times, in order to work on my patience, work on my ethics and work on my mind. When I have been able to change my own negative internal states, my own frustration and anger, I have really been able to serve humanity better at that job.
Our greatest form of prayer for divinity is when we comprehend and annihilate anger, which is why Prophet Muhammad taught “The strongest amongst you is he who controls his anger.” We can’t really help other people if we are afflicted by our own desires.
So they relate to each other: service and death of the ego. They are two aspects of the same thing, including the other factor, which is birth. Birth, death and sacrifice―the three factors of Gnosis. Of course, it’s a form of prayer in which we no longer react to life, we contemplate God in our thoughts, our deeds and our hearts. When we do not act on our ego, but act virtuously, God exalts us and helps us with certain meditative states and experiences. Hope that answers your question.
Question: Yes, definitely thank you. So, the sacrifice and the serving of humanity, that can come through voluntary suffering, whereas the suffering is when you are in an ordeal and you want to argue back and prove that you right, show that you are the victim in the situation but instead you do not act on your anger, your pride and that’s voluntary. Its hard because you want to point out that you are being wronged but instead you take the higher road, and that’s voluntary suffering, correct?
Instructor: Absolutely, and that is really the foundation of developing certainty. People want to experience God, but they do not want to work on the veil that covers them. When we are angry, we do not see God. We see anger. We want to hurt, but if you are changing your mental states, you are tearing the veil of Isis according to the Freemasons. In that way we can really serve the other person, especially when they are crucifying us, metaphorically speaking.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
Everybody who enters and practices the gnostic teachings always wants to have direct experience, mystical states, knowledge of God. When we read the writings of Samael Aun Weor, it is difficult to not feel inspired by the beauty, the depth, the power of the many personal anecdotes and experiences that he conveys. He often speaks firsthand of astral projections, awakened experiences, out of the body in the internal planes, the higher dimensions of nature, in which he has spoken with his Inner God or the masters of the White Lodge. Jinn experiences. Tremendous ecstasies of the soul.
What is particularly attractive of this kind of writing is that it goes against the theories, the conjectures, the beliefs about religion, or spirituality. These writings are powerful. They inspire us and they should enliven our heart, to push us to want to experience these things for ourselves.
It is not the intention to merely show off this kind of knowledge. That was not the intention of the writings of Samael Aun Weor and many other prophets. As Ibn ‘Arabi, a great Sufi master, stated (paraphrased), “When someone raises a lamp, it is in order to show light, not to be proud of one's elevation.” This is why such experiences are beautiful, are necessary. But if we wish to have that kind of knowledge for ourselves, to follow in the footsteps of the prophets, we must be practical.
There are many people who study meditation. Many decades. People love to read about religion, about mystical experience, about divinity, but they don't practice. Many people are merely content with reading about the Being, reading about experiences, and not working effectively to have that knowledge for oneself.
This is similar to reading about the experience of drinking water and yet one is dying of thirst. If you wish to understand the experience of water, you have to walk to the faucet, the well, and extract that water for oneself and to drink it. While this analogy is very simple, this perfectly illustrates the state of many students, not only within Gnosticism, but all religions, all esoteric schools.
We can hear about how wonderful water tastes. How it nourishes our body. And yet we will be thirsty and starving, emaciated, weak, if we do not drink for ourselves.
This is the same nature of spiritual experience. It is refreshing to the soul. It is liberating. It is the essence of life. Without meditation we cannot drink from the fountain of God, which is the well of our own knowledge, our own inner wisdom, our Inner Being. It is through meditation that we refresh our souls. That we nourish our souls. That we become inspired.
It is fundamental. We cannot know divinity without meditation. It is the method that grants the capacity for transformation.
Annihilation and Subsistence
Transformation is essentially the purpose of our practice. We wish to cease suffering, to comprehend what in us gives us pain. Why do we not know divinity? What have we done that prevents our direct access with the truth?
We always state in these studies, every religion states in its esoteric heart, that the obstacle to interior illumination is the ego. The self. The "I." It is only when we die to the ego, eradicate the self, eliminate pride, fear, hatred, lust, that we can learn to approach divinity. We have been stating that our own conditions of mind obscure our consciousness from seeing the truth. This is well explained within Sufism.
They say that in order to know Allah, to experience the truth, the self must be annihilated. The Arabic term they use is fana. It means “annihilation.” When we die to our defects, when we annihilate the self, that multiplicity of defects: anger, resentment, fear, gluttony, etc., we extract the consciousness that was trapped, conditioned. That is how we generate light—the light of our soul that can allow us to see with intensity, with clarity, the profound mystical states of the Being.
The Sufis also state, when we have annihilated the self, we learn to subsist in divinity. We learn how to be, to be one with God. The term subsistence in Arabic is baqa. It is a profound term relating to Al-Baqarah, the second Surah of the Qur'an, “The Heifer,” “The Cow,” which relates to an aspect of our divinity known in different religions as the divine feminine, the Divine Mother, which the Muslims refer to as Baqarah.
That Surah is very profound. It is the longest in the the Qur’an. It refers to the verb, the power of speech, recitation, mantralization, which expresses the perfect unity of God.
Sufism in its heart, in its true expression, is a very profound and practical teaching through which we learn different levels of being, states of consciousness, elevated aspects of the soul and of divinity. We learned to subsist in our work, to continue in our path only through annihilation, fana. There is no way that we could obtain inspiration to continue in this work if we do not comprehend ourselves.
So we need help. We need inspiration. We need to feel joy in this path. It is very easy to sit in meditation, to observe in our day our own negative qualities of mind. If we only focus on the negative, our own morbidity, our pessimism, our despair, such feelings destroy the consciousness, enmesh oneself in suffering until eventually people abandon meditation because they don't see results.
States and Stations: Levels of Being
And this is the beauty of Sufism, is that we learn about the virtues of the soul, the higher levels of Being, the states of God. Which if we practice diligently, we learn to experience little by little, through gifts of divinity. Mystical states inspire us. They guide us in the work and help us to be consistent, to push ourselves, to be disciplined.
There are many different levels of being, as we stated in our previous lecture. Mystical states are dynamic. They are infinite. A mystical state does not necessarily have to focus on just some internal samadhi, ecstasy from the East, an experience out of the body, but can occur physically, when we understand something profoundly, when we feel joy, happiness, inspiration.
It is important to cultivate the virtues of the soul as we work on the ego. This is what creates balance. If we focus only on our hatred, on how dense the mind is, without comprehending the light, we will become very pessimistic, and such people eventually leave gnosis. They abandon meditation. They abandon what is best. So this is why in Sufism we study. In Gnosticism we study the stations and states of the path.
We explain that stations are levels of being which we acquire through work, initiation, degrees. The states of the soul are given to us from divinity in the moment as flashes of inspiration to help us continue in the path. States are gifts. Divinity provides us with light, but stations or initiations are earned. We need both. Without states of contentment, of magnanimity, of joy, of the power of the Being, we will not be motivated to work further.
Divinity seeks us. This is important to remember. The Being longs for realization of its own nature. We are part of the being and as Samael Aun Weor in The Revolution of the Dialectic stated, "The Being is the Being and the reason for the Being to be is to be the Being itself."
Our divinity wants to know itself and we are part of divinity. The soul is a mirror. It can reflect the images of hell, the infra-consciousness, or if it is polished, to give remembrance. We learn to reflect the heavens, which is something that Ibn ‘Arabi, a great Sufi master, taught in his Kitab al-Ahadiyyah, Treatise on the One Alone. Or as Bayazid Bastami stated, "For thirty years I sought God, but when I looked carefully, I found that in reality God was the seeker and I am the sought."
Inquietudes, yearnings of the soul—these are psychological pressures given to us in the heart from our inner Being to push us to return to Him, to Her. Without that we cannot rise up from our state of suffering.
In this way, we study the levels of being. There are infinite levels of being, but for the sake of clarity and organization, for the purposes of study, the Sufis referred to these mystical states in many ways. As we stated, they sometimes refer to seven states or stations. Forty. A hundred levels. A thousand levels. Really its infinite, but we refer to different systems of different Sufi schools to understand more about ourselves, the dynamism of the soul, the great breadth and profundity of the heart.
So these are degrees or initiations. The stations of the path., initiations that we earn. So the Sufi manuals of great Persian masters, especially, are very wonderful for knowing, contemplating the levels of being, the mystical ecstasies of the heart and the soul, which is why Samael Aun Weor in The Aquarian Message stated:
“The seven degrees of ecstasy through which the mystic reaches the perfect state of the soul are described in the school of Sufism. The school of Sufism teaches about ecstasy. The state and secret of our level [of Being] is revealed in Sufism, because this is the interior state of life in God." —Samael Aun Weor, The Aquarian Message
Ecstasy and Being
What is ecstasy? From the Latin exstatuo, “to stand outside oneself.” This means that we go beyond the mind, our current, everyday, mundane perception. We learn to stand on our own feet spiritually. We remove the conditions in mind so that the genie from Aladdin's lamp may be liberated, even if but temporarily.
The word ecstasy in Arabic is wajd, and ecstasy simply means spiritual experience free of the ego. In the East, they refer to these states as Samadhis. The same definition. Meditations and experiences free of limited physical conditions. They are internal perceptions. The Sufis sometimes refer to these as lights, as inspirations that shine within the heart.
So all these states come to us when we meditate. And as we are proving our consistency, our diligence, our commitment to the Being, we receive help. We receive guidance, because there are certain experiences and qualities that we cannot obtain on our own without help. And we'll talk more about what this involves within the schools of Sufism, especially.
In Gnosis, we refer to this as borrowed light. Sometimes masters of the White Lodge may provide us with experiences to help us, to push us. The Sufis call this barakah, blessings from a master that temporarily awaken the student in a very intense or heightened, clarified state of internal perception, such as in dream yoga, astral experiences, jinn states.
But in order to even receive that help, we have to be working. We have to develop ethical discipline as we explain about Sharia in our first lecture.
“Ecstasy (wajd), befalls the heart suddenly and unexpectedly, coming upon it without design or artificial prompting. Of this the shaykhs have said, ‘Ecstasies are sudden events, but they are the fruits of assigned devotions.’ God increases His kindnesses toward all who increase their spiritual practice.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
The ultimate spiritual practice is meditation, which is fueled by our work with energy. Such as through mantras, pranayama, transmutation. It is important to combine our exercises of Gnosis with meditation because as Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Spiritual Power of Sound:
“We can experience the Being, the Innermost, only through profound meditation. The experience of the Being, the Innermost, transforms us radically…
“It is completely impossible to experience the Being—the Innermost, the Reality—without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation. It is completely impossible to experience the Being—the Innermost, the Reality—without having reached a true mastery of the quietude and silence of the mind.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
So the Sufis and our teacher Samael Aun Weor state the same thing. We must work with our assigned devotions, meaning our meditations, our prayers, because divinity provides us with light for all those who increase their discipline, which is why the following quote continues.
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say that inner events arise out of systematic private devotions. He who has no assigned litany, in his outer being, has no spiritual influx in his inner being. An ecstasy that owes anything to the one who experiences it is not true ecstasy.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So what does it mean to have no assigned litany? It means to have no prayers or practice. Our tradition is replete with innumerable exercises: mantras, prayers, runes, pranayama, alchemy, sacred rites of rejuvenation, meditation. These exercises help to develop quietude of mind, serenity of thought, so that in the stillness of our consciousness, we can experience the truth.
These exercises are fundamental. However, we practice whatever we need in accordance with our level of being and our disposition. Obviously, some people will not be married and cannot practice alchemy until they do so. However, we work with energy: pranayama, runes, and most especially, meditation. Whether we are single or married, we must work with where we are at, so that through accumulating energy, saving our emotional energy, our mental energy, our sexual energy, we have the fuel necessary by which to discipline the mind. Because without energy, we cannot act.
This is why ethics, Shari’ah, is the beginning of religion. Save your energy. Do not waste it through the ego through explosions of anger, of resentment, of pride. It is inevitable that if we are fulfilling the necessary laws and requisites of the path, Shari’ah and Tariqah, we learn to experience the truth, Haqiqah. Through working with the influx of energy available to us when we meditate, we learn through rituals, exercises, practices, to focus our attention.
All of those exercises that work with energy help us with concentration and silence of mind. Without that we cannot have any experiences.
So it's important to establish that foundation First. That is the groundwork by which we enter samadhi, ecstasy, wajd.
“An ecstasy that owes anything to the one who experiences it is not true ecstasy,” said the Sufis, Abu Ali al-Daqqaq, the teacher of Qushayri in his Principles of Sufism.
This is a very subtle meaning. It means that certain experiences that are super normal, very elevated, are given to us as gifts, not because we have earned it, not because we have mastered it, or entered initiation, but because we are sincere and need help. We are yearning to know divinity and because we are practicing, the White Lodge looks upon us and says, “Let us help this disciple and provide an experience, an ecstasy so that it can validate the teaching for him or her.”
So it is very common in the beginning of Gnosis that as we save energy, we start to have experiences. Some people have very intense samadhis or astral projections that they cannot explain. They receive blessings and help which is known as “borrowed light” in our tradition. It is not light that we generate on our own, but we receive from God, from the prophets, because they want to show us something valuable. They want to show us that this teaching is real.
The Sufis call it barakah, blessings, and it is very common within the Muslim tradition to think of the saints, to worship the saints, to venerate them and to ask for their barakah, their blessings from holy shrines, temples, sacred spaces that have been the physical conduit where those masters lived and provided their divine force.
In a more profound level we can receive borrowed light, barakah, internally, when we are out of the physical body. When we stand outside of ourselves, literally, that is an astral projection, an ecstasy in which we are conscious of that dimension.
But all this is founded on our practice.
“Just as, in outward life, it is the ordinary daily transactions in which the servant engages that produce for him the sweetness of acts of worship, so, in inward life, the guidelines the servant confronts are what bring on his ecstasies. The sweetnesses of worship are the fruits of outer dealings, ecstasies are the results of inner efforts.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So, what is that sweetness of worship? When you are profoundly meditating, deeply enmeshed in your conversation with your Being, and you feel the elevation of your heart, the sweetness of the soul.
Outward worship at a temple is beautiful. It can be necessary for many people. Attending groups, Gnostic schools, can aid the disciple to feel that sweetness of worship through group practice. We also feel worship in the sweetness of the soul at our daily job, if we are conscious. We deal with people outwardly. We work to follow our own compassionate nature of the soul, raising our level of being in our work physically, and internally. And as we are working on our own negative states of mind, we are performing inner effort.
The internal is a reflection of the external. When your outward life reflects the beauty of your inward life, when you let virtue be your guide, your conscience, your motivation, we naturally develop the sweetness of the work. The joy of the work. We feel ecstasy when we comprehend anger and understand that a discovered defect is a dead defect.
We learn to stand outside of ourselves physically, at our jobs, at our work, in the bedroom. That means that you are observing yourself. The soul is observing the observed, which is the ego. We are standing outside of ourselves so that we can gather data, to comprehend the “I.” As we comprehend what the ego is, we feel joy.
This is what Samael Aun Weor stated, "The greatest joy of a gnostic is the discovery of one of his or her defects,” because when we separate from the mind, we see it for what it is and in that that way we can change. That gives us true ecstasy, joy.
I know people like to think that ecstasy is some samadhi in the clouds. While that is true, we get to that point when we stand outside of our ego as we work in self-observation, or as the Sufis refer to as inner-accounting, muhassabah. We have to take an account of our virtues and our defects. This is the result of inner effort, which develops the sweetness of the soul, and in that way we learn to access supra-conscious states.
There are states of being which everybody reads about and everybody craves. These are states of soul or Being that are at the top of the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah, which we studied previously in our lecture on stations. These are qualities of the Being that are very high, which we can only experience after annihilating the ego.
The Light, Unity, and Knowledge of the Being
Being in Arabic is known as wujud, and on the right of this slide we see Arabic calligraphy of the words Al-Nur, meaning “the light,” which is a very famous Surah in the Qur’an, of which we will relate some excerpts.
Al-Nur is the Being, the lights and purity of our own inner divine nature, which the Sufis and Muslims referred to as Allah. This is supraconsciousness, states of understanding that are omniscient, beyond the physical universe. They know how to see and travel throughout all the dimensions of the Tree of Life. So to reach that point, we have to meditate. The Sufis state:
“As for being or finding,” meaning to find God, “it follows on advancement out of wajd. There is no finding the Truth save after the extinction of the ordinary human condition, because when the power of reality manifests, the perception of material things cannot endure.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So these are samadhis or ecstasies, which happen outside the physical body, in which people commonly denominate as experiences. As a consciousness, we are in different dimensions of the Tree of Life as our physical body sleeps. To reach those very high experiences, we have to learn meditation. Suspend the physical senses. Relax the body. Calm the heart. Circulate the vital forces. Relax the mind and concentrate on the Being.
In the quietude the divinity within our very core nature manifests. This is how we learn to find our true nature, the Being, wujud, which is etymologically related to wajd, because the Being is ecstasy. It is a state of happiness that is so vast and limitless that it defies reasoning and bewilders the mind.
To reach that point, we have to lose our common everyday perception of what we think or who we think we are. This is the meaning of the saying by Abu-l Husayn al-Nuri, “For twenty years I have been finding and losing. When I found my Lord, I have lost my heart. And when I found my heart, I have lost my Lord."
There are many Sufis who write and talk about this principle, that to know God you have to lose yourself, but that tradition has not really explained any practical experiences or examples. You find those types of experiences very well explicated in the writings of Samael Aun Weor. For the purposes of this lecture, I will relate to you a samadhi that I experience as a consciousness many years ago.
I was practicing meditation, deeply concentrated, and I let my physical body fall asleep. I was undergoing an ordeal in the astral plane, which I conquered. And I was instructed and taught to project my soul through my crown chakra, the Church of Laodicea, which is the chakra relating to omniscience, polyvoyance, intuitive perception, intuitive clairvoyance. It is our link to the very heavens. And I remember pushing out through that chakra and I entered as a soul, divested of any bodies or vehicles, and returned to my own Ain Soph, which Samael Aun Weor relates to in his writings of Kabbalah.
It is our supra-atomic star, the synthesis of who we are, the real Being, which is a light that shines with glory and happiness in the absolute abstract space. And I as a soul had lost my identity as an individual, to what I thought I was, but was united with That. Pure ecstasy. Being. Wujud. However, I identified again with my mind. I lost the ecstasy and I fell back within the astral plane.
That was a beautiful moment of such joy that I don't forget or cease to think about every day of my life, because that is the real Being. The true identity. Our supra-individuality.
And I remember the saying of this Sufi initiate Abu-l Husayn al-Nuri, "When I found my Lord, I lost my heart, and when I found my heart, I lost my Lord." So in that moment, I was in samadhi, but then I thought about my mind back below and my consciousness got sucked back into existence. I identified with my own sense of self and became forgetful of that light.
It is interesting that even the name of Abu-l Husayn Al-Nuri, his name literally means "beautiful light" in Arabic. So many of the Sufi masters took on names, very symbolic and Kabbalistic, profound. Hassan, Hussein, relates to Ihsan, beautiful action—the beauty or light of the soul, or in Kabbalah, Tiphereth, the human consciousness.
Al-Nuri is the light. The light of Ain Soph, as we see in this calligraphy. It is the beauty of the light. It is supra-consciousness. Happiness without limitations. The limitless. It is the unity of perfect expression of the divine.
This is why the Sufis also state:
“It is also the meaning of the saying of Junayd, ‘The knowledge of Unity is contrary to its existence, and its existence is contrary to the knowledge of it.’” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So I'm relating to you this experience with my intellect, with words, but intellectual knowledge of that unity, Ain Soph, is contrary to its existence, because words fail to describe or to attribute anything relating to the Being. Its existence is contrary to Its knowledge or our knowledge of It.
The Shahadah: Declaring the Unity of God
So what is the unity in Islam? They pronounce the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith:
“There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Prophet.”
lā ʾilāha ʾillā Llāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu Llāh (in Arabic).
There are many Muslims who pronounce this prayer, but knowing this phrase in the intellect is one thing, knowing it from experience is something else. Shahadah means “witnessing, to bear witness,” to experience the truth.
And what does it mean to submit to God in Arabic? Islam. Many people follow the tradition, physically thinking that through certain adaptation or adoption of prayers, rituals, behaviors, that one somehow is now following God. But it is important to remember that Shahadah, to witness the divine, comes from mushahadah, contemplation, meditation.
The Ain Soph is Allah in Arabic. The limitless. It is a point in space that is our own true light that wants to have cognizance of Its own happiness, Its own true nature. Allah in Arabic comes from أل Al and the syllable لا La, which literally means “The No,” “The Nothing,” “The emptiness,” which is the Buddhist Shunyata, the abstract light of perfect Seity, devoid of common individuality, that is a form of light, our true nature, Al-Nur. That beautiful light is our own star that guides our interior, which calls us back with longing, which seeks us so that we can return with knowledge to It.
There's a Surah in the Qur’an that relates this principle. From Surah Al-Nur (24:35):
“Allah is the light of the heavens (the nine sephiroth) and the Earth (Malkuth, the kingdom or bottom of the Tree of Life). The example whose light is like a [niche] within a lamp (a niche is a supra-atomic point, the synthesis, the Being). The lamp is within a glass, (which reminds us of hermetic science, the science of alchemy), the glass as if it were a pearly white star lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree…” ―Surah Al-Nur 35
That pearly white star is the light of our true nature in the heavens, Allah, Ain Soph, which we learn to experience by working with the oil of the blessed olive tree, known in Middle Eastern science as alchemy, Allah Khemia: the work with energy. That light, that oil, is:
“…neither from the east or the west.” ―Surah Al-Nur 35
That tree is neither of the east or the west. On the Tree of Life relating to the sphere of Tiphereth, the East, and Malkuth, the West. The sunrise rises in Tiphereth, the East, which is the goal of our path. To rise up the Tree of Life with light. But if we fall down from Malkuth into the West when the sun sets, we die spiritually. We lose inspiration, allegorically speaking, Kabbalistically speaking.
“Whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire.” ―Surah Al-Nur 35
We speak abundantly in our studies of the work with the oil, which is a symbol of our sexual matter and energy, which we learn to transform with chastity and purity so that that energy, elevated, is used by the soul, untouched by fire or lust.
“Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills and Allah presents parables (symbols, experiences) for the people and Allah is knowing of all things.” ―Surah Al-Nur 35
So we know in Kabbalah that Ain Soph, the Being, is beyond the Tree of Life. It is the negation of all that is existent. It is our true existence, which is non-existence. It is the negation of the self, the complete annihilation of individuality as we conceive it, of grasping at "me, myself, I."
It is only when we fully die, even if only for a moment, that we can enter samadhi, ecstasy. Ibn ‘Arabi speaks abundantly about the unity of God. He says that only divinity can comprehend Himself. So it is a very beautiful teaching, very subtle. While I am telling you that, conventionally-speaking, that my soul united with my own Ain Soph with that experience, it wasn't me knowing myself, but the Being through my soul.
It is a very thorny issue in theology. Very confusing for people who don't meditate. We can think of divinity as light, even as a person who can only know himself by looking in a mirror. That mirror is our soul, is our heart. If we purify the heart, we can reflect the light and therefore divinity gains consciousness of Its own true nature. He witnesses himself through the mirror of the soul.
“With this sense they recite: I find my true existence in vanishing from existence. And from all apparent evidence I see.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So true existence is the Being. It means vanishing from everything that is not that source. We know from our studies of initiation and the Tree of Life that we work in successive degrees, ascending to higher states of consciousness until finally at the very end of the path, we abandon everything that is manifested in this universe to return to that light. The yogis of India refer to this perfect bliss, knowledge, and Being absolute in Sanskrit terms: Sat Chit Ananda.
Sivananda writes about this very beautifully in his books. We can think of it as object, subject, union. These terms or principles describe the perfect state of ecstasy, in which the Being is the object. The soul is the subject and the union is completed. So in that experience the soul that is my true nature was united with That. The light was the light and one could see oneself as both the Being and the soul in union.
This is the meaning of religion, from the Latin religare. Reunion. In Sufism, they refer to this type of experience as Madkhur, the Invoked, which is the Being; Dhakr, the Invoker, who is the dervish or the soul; Dhikr, the Invocation: the call upon the divine, the consciousness of the divine.
In other terms, we say it is the Remembered, the Rememberer, and the Remembrance. It is in that state that the Being has cognizance of Its own happiness. This is the purpose of our spiritual work. To return to that abstract joy. That perfect Being. It is for our own Ain Soph, our own true star, light, and ecstasy of divinity, to have cognizance of That known as Paranishpanna in the writings of Samael Aun Weor.
This is known in Sufism and Islam as the Day of Alast: the covenant made between the soul and Allah, that the soul will return to divinity through the path. This is scripturally validated in the following verses from the Qur’an, Surah 7, verse 172 (Surah Al-Ar’af):
"And mention when your Lord took you from the children of Adam, from their loins—their descendants, and made them testify of themselves saying to them, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said ‘Yes, we have testified.’ This less you should say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Indeed we were of this unaware.’” ―Ar’af 172
So there is a very famous verse within Islam. Many people think it refers to the literal people of Adam and his descendants making a covenant with God. That they will return to their upright ways of living. Some people say this took place physically at Nu’man a valley near Arafat. There are other interpretations of the Qur’an known as tafsir, exegeses, or commentaries on that scripture, that this occurred when Adam descended to the Earth metaphysically. Some say before that or even after. Other Sufis and other initiates comment that it happened in heaven.
This is actually a metaphysical experience. Meaning, we all originated from our own Ain Soph, who is our true nature, our light, which sends its light down the Tree of Life into different matters, energy, into consciousness, forms of expression, so that it can return inward and upward, back to the source with knowledge. “Happiness is not true happiness without cognizance of That.” It is a very Kabbalistic statement by Samael Aun Weor, which you can read about in Tarot and Kabbalah, especially.
So the Being says, “Am I not your Lord? Am I not your true identity?” And that is our covenant. To return to the source, the synthesis of who we are. This is the voice of the silence. It is the source of our own longings and inquietudes. Our deep yearnings for studying this type of doctrine is to know That. To know the unity.
Mythomania and Mystical Experiences
So while many people think that these kinds of mystical states or experiences are indicators of progress, what happens with many people is that while having those types of experiences, many students and even instructors, followers of different traditions or teachings, become confused. They have those experiences and then they return to their body saying “I am a master. I am a great Being. I am liberated!”
What they don't understand is that those kind of experiences are merely states given to us by divinity as a gift. They do not signify that we have entered and subsisted in that state through initiation. We can have those experiences, states of liberation temporarily, but to really be permanently united in That, is a very lofty goal. Very difficult.
As Samael Aun Weor stated:
"Some hermits who isolated themselves within caves, based on rigorous disciplines, attained the ecstasy of the saints and were taken up to heaven. There they saw and heard things that are not easily comprehended by human beings. Nevertheless, their “I’s” continued to exist within their interior.
"Unquestionably, the Essence [consciousness or soul], through rigorous discipline, can escape from within the “I”; thus, it enjoys ecstasy. However, after such bliss, the Essence returns into the interior of the “myself.”
"Those who have become accustomed to ecstasy without having dissolved the ego believe that they have already reached liberation. They fool themselves by believing themselves to be Masters. They even enter into the submerged devolution [descent and destruction within the hell realms of nature, the inferior planes of Klipoth].
"Nonetheless, we are not pronouncing ourselves against mystical ecstasy, against the ecstasy and happiness of the soul while in the absence of the ego. We only want to place emphasis on the necessity of dissolving “I’s” [achieving fana: annihilation] in order to achieve the final liberation.
"The Essence of any disciplined hermit, accustomed to escaping from within the “I,” repeats such a feat after the death of his physical body. Then, his Essence enjoys the ecstasy for some time. Yet, after such time, his Essence returns as the Genie of Aladdin’s lamp, back into the interior of the lamp, the ego, the myself.
"Thereupon, he has no other choice but to return into a new physical body with the purpose of repeating his life on the stage of existence.
"Many mystics who lived and died in the caverns of the Himalayas in central Asia reincarnated again and are now vulgar, common and current people in this world, in spite of the fact that their followers still adore and venerate them.
"Therefore, any attempt at liberation, no matter how great it might be, if it does not take into consideration the necessity of dissolving the ego, it is condemned to failure." ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
This is why in our tradition we speak abundantly about mythomania. There are people who have genuine experiences of God in different levels and because they don't study the doctrine, they get confused. They think they are gods. Mythomania comes from myth of manas, the Sanskrit term for mind. It means “to make a myth of the mind.” The mind thinks it is great, that it is God, but the mind is just the devil. As I explained that experience I had, I left behind my mind, my devil. However, when I identified with my mind again, I lost the experience, falling down into the astral plane, losing the ecstasy.
While that was a beautiful experience, I would never dare make the mistake to think that that is my permanent level. It was a gift. People get confused because they have those experiences but don't really evaluate the quality of their mind. They are not stations: permanent, established, levels of Being. They are states that come and go as blessings from God.
The Definition of States
So let us define what a state is according to the Sufi manuals of the great masters, especially Al-Qushayri from his Principles of Sufism.
“According to the Sufis, a state is a spiritual influence that arrives in the heart without their intending, contriving or earning it, such as joy or sorrow or expansion and contraction or desire or agitation, or awe, or need.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So these are experiences that we receive without intending it, without earning it. And that samadhi that I related to you, that was given to me without my intention and definitely without my earning it. However, I had been disciplined in my practices and was given the gift in order to relate it to this type of knowledge, to clarify things.
So other states such as experiences of that nature can sometimes be even more or less intense, but still very beautiful and profound, like joy or expanding our consciousness. Sometimes there are states that are contracted. We become focused on one thing. Expansion is a type of diffusion into space with a clarified awareness. Contraction is more concentrated, as if we are focusing only on one thing. A very disciplined contracted will. Very strong attention, which also can be as state, a gift, or a desire, or longing, to be agitated in a spiritual sense, to be filled with awe, yearning, or longing for God.
“While stations are earned, the states (ahwal) are gifts. The stations are attained through the expenditure of effort, but the states appear from the fount of generosity. The possessor of a station is confirmed in it…” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
…or has reached that level of being, has achieved The Major Mysteries according to Samael Aun Weor.
“The possessor of a state is transported beyond it.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So I claim that that experience I had was a gift. I am still in the process of working on myself. Hopefully that I will return to That, to be transported to That. But in order for that to happen, we have to work from the ground up.
“Dhul-Nun al-Misri was asked about the gnostic and said, ‘He was here, and he left.’” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So what is the true gnostic? A true Sufi, one who is perfected marif’ah, knowledge of God. Knowledge of the truth, and therefore, his or her states and stations are beyond our comprehension. So while that person can be physically present with us, consciously-speaking, they are aware of all the dimensions of nature. Here and now. “He was here and then he left.”
Such beings are very difficult to comprehend at our level because they can access all dimensions of the Tree of Life with will, with intentionality. They are not limited to one sphere. But for us, we find that states are temporary. They come and go. We can be meditating, introspecting, contemplating a verse from a scripture, concentrating on an image of divinity, whether a holy figure, or something as simple as a mandala, a stone, a picture. We can be reflecting on the virtues of our own consciousness, of our Being. And, states suddenly emerge in the screen of our awareness. You suddenly see a landscape, a place, a group of people, a conversation, a symbol, a form of life, images, sounds. These appear directly before us and we are both witnesses and participants. These are flashes of understanding or inspiration. Imagination. If we understand the import of those experiences, we develop intuition, understanding of what those states are communicating.
The Momentariness of States
“Some of the shaykhs have said, ‘The states are like lightning flashes.’” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
Meaning, these experiences come upon the heart suddenly, without expectation. When we cease thinking.
“If one seems to continue, it is self-deception." ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
Many times in our practices, especially in the beginning, we are meditating and we have an experience. We see an image, a sound, a symbol with the type of clarity that is very expensive or clear, and suddenly when we realize what is happening, we return to our body, back to our asana (posture). Those experiences are very temporary. They come in flashes, and then we are stuck in the mind again, seeing all sorts of contents, memories, anxieties, fears, worries that continue on and on. This is the meaning of how if these states seem to continue, it is self-deception.
We have states of the soul that are very clear, very profound, and have a particular taste that is distinct. Therefore we have to learn to sift through the mind and understand that genuine states of the soul appear like lightning. They appear, then they vanish. So we should question our mind. Be very diligent to understand that not everything we see in ourselves is going to be objective. If it seems to continue onward, like all the chain of associative thinking we know of, that is self-deception. That is the ego.
“And they have said, “The states are as their name,” [the verb hala means ‘to change’ or ‘to pass’], meaning that immediately as they come upon the heart, they vanish. They recite: Did it not change, it would not be called a state And everything that changes vanishes. Look at the shadow whenever it draws to an end. It begins its diminution when it has grown long.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
Validating Internal Experiences
So it is important that we understand something very essential. Having experiences is not enough. Having mystical states is not sufficient. We have to learn to verify what we see.
Scriptures allow us and show us understanding of what these types of ecstasies are. We have to both have experiences, but also read, study, reflect. When we see that our own experiences are reflected within the writings of the great prophets, we develop faith. We don't get confused. We understand precisely what God was telling us, and therefore we have no doubt as to what we know.
Personally, I have had many experiences that I witnessed firsthand, internally, and only later found evidence physically of what that meant. In the case of that experience I related to you, there are other symbols relating to that vision, that ecstasy, that I confirmed in many writings in order to evaluate its objectivity. And in that way I have faith. I know what that experience was communicating and so there is no confusion or doubt.
So many times we can read the writings of Samael Aun Weor, the Qur’an, the scriptures, any of the experiences that, before we read about them, we have.
I believe I related in our previous lectures knowing about the Tree of Life before reading about it. The ten spheres. the ten sephiroth. It is actually very beautiful to have that experience and then later confirm it. It shows us that we are progressing and that we are on strong ground.
We have to learn that we must not only be practical meditators, but studious disciples. We have to read and know the knowledge in depth. This is known as intellectual spiritual culture. Our knowledge, our studies, help us to clarify and decipher our internal experiences.
So we can have those types of experiences, but if we don't know the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, the nature of the path, we will be very lost. We will be receiving messages from divinity, but not having the knowledge to interpret.
Samael Aun Weor mentions that Kabbalah is the language of the internal worlds. We need to have intellectual spiritual culture. This means: have a very good knowledge of every tradition, especially the Gnostic tradition, so that we learn to be balanced, because many people can have experiences and think that they are objective. But if those experiences go against our ethics, the writings of the prophets, then we are deluded, we are confused. So experiences have to coincide with the writings. Otherwise, we will be in error. We will make false judgments and can make mistakes.
Which is why Abu Sulayman stated in Principles of Sufism (by Al-Qushayri):
“Sometimes one of the subtle sayings of the Sufis stays in my heart for days, but I will not accept it save on [the testimony of] two just witnesses: the Qur’an and the Sunnah.” ―Abu Sulayman al-Darani in Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So we have to rely on the teachings of the prophets, those who walked the path before. That is because these initiates have very high levels of attainment. They have a lot of awakened consciousness and can explain things for us that are very difficult. We have to learn to study from masters of Major Mysteries, the prophets, people who really established themselves in accordance with hierarchy, meaning their level being is very high, such as Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Moses, Khidr in the Qur’an, Samael Aun Weor.
We have to study from masters whom we have validated, whom we know are objective. This is important because many people in our studies have committed crimes and even lost their sanity because they lacked culture. They had experiences that told them that such and such person is a black magician, a sorcerer, a demon. Or, experiences that are contrary to our fundamental ethics of how to behave in life, and therefore they literally committed crimes. You can read about this type of dynamic in Samael Aun Weor's book Sexology: The Basis of Endocrinology and Criminology, where he communicates the link between spiritual perception and the criminal code.
Internal States and Spiritual Facts
The foundational of reason why people make mistakes is because they have internal states that do not coincide with facts. They don't know how to interpret what they see. This is why study and practice is essential. Study the true sources of meditative knowledge, because:
“Being and knowing must be balanced to establish a sudden blaze of comprehension within our psyche. When knowing is greater than being, it causes all kinds of intellectual confusion. If being is greater than knowing, it can produce cases as serious as that of a stupid saint.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Study is knowledge and practice is being.Together we produce comprehension. People who study a lot but don't experience become pessimistic, morbid, defeatist, confused. It is because they read about experiences that they don't have and wish that they can have that kind of knowledge for themselves, and feel covetous of those who do. They become dark, pessimistic, morbid, angry, envious.
It is important to really balance the two, because there are those who even have a lot of experiences, but don't have knowledge. They become stupid saints. They can receive knowledge from God, but because they can't interpret, they are stupid in a very blunt sense. They don't know how to relate their experiences to physical life. They don't know how to make their inner experiences practical for themselves, what those messages mean, because initiation is our own life lived intensely with rectitude and love.
So balance the two. Read the doctrine, study the books, but meditate. Meditate on what you read. We have to learn to digest all the beautiful symbols and concepts and understandings we get from our teachers, the prophets, the scriptures. And if you have experiences, learn to find books and teachings that explain what those are.
In my case, I remember having that one experience long ago before I even knew certain aspects of Kabbalah. I united with Ain Soph, but I was bewildered because I didn't understand the real depth of that experience. I knew it was my Being, but I didn't know how that related to the Tree of Life, the Kabbalah. Now, studying that aspect of this teaching, it has become very clear. Therefore I am no longer confused about what it meant.
Over the years of even studying more and more, I’m seeing that arch an experience is not particular to me, but it is mentioned in many cosmogonies and writings of great authors. Great yogis, great prophets. So I don't claim that this is something only special to a few people, because we all have that inside. We all can experience that. But it takes a type of work and blessings from divinity.
But learning to decipher what we see, what states we experiences, we have to learn to combine knowledge and being, as I said. That statement by Samael Aun Weor is corroborated by the Sufis:
“The best of states is that which goes together with knowledge.” ―Nahrajuri in Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
“Any mystical state that is not the fruit of formal religious knowledge brings more trouble than benefit to the one who experiences it.” ―Abu Amr bin Nujayd in Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
This is all based on ethics. We can have an experience internally that we are told we are a great God and that we should do such and such a thing, even when that action contradicts divine law, the ethics of the soul, upright behavior, upright thinking, upright feeling. There are many people in Gnosis who have committed crimes, made terrible mistakes because they did not study the doctrine. They were confused by a negative, subjective, egotistical state, thinking that they were in samadhi, that they were in ecstasy, when the truth is that they were just confused, by the ego, by Shaitan, the adversary, our ego, al-nafs, nafas, the soul or the lower soul.
So any mystical state must be corroborated by the doctrine, otherwise it brings trouble. So if you have those experiences that are confusing or dark, that don't coincide with the knowledge, then you have to discriminate, meditate, interpret, look for the source. And if that type of state is contrary to the law, then disregard it.
We have to be very exact with our concepts. Logical thought and exact concept are necessary in order to develop spiritual perception, says Samael Aun Weor, I believe in the book on Sexology: The Basis of Endocrinology and Criminology.
This is why we study the lives of the prophets. The Sunnah, the scriptures. This is so we know how to live ethically. Ethics empowers our actions and our actions influence our spiritual states. Our spiritual devotions physically is what determines what states we will experience.
There is a famous Hadith in the Muslim oral tradition which emphasizes this point: how our actions permeate everything we are mentally, physically, emotionally, instinctually, sexually. Prophet Muhammad was known to have stated:
“The outer law (shari'ah) is my word, the spiritual path (tariqah) my actions, and the inner reality (haqiqah) my inner states.” ―Prophet Muhammad
So these three levels of instruction: Shari’ah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah, are essential when we study mystical states.
Everything is based upon our ethics or code of conduct, which is the path of the heart. Without that foundation we cannot have true inner states or knowledge, Haqiqah: the experience of the Being, which is embodied in the life of any prophet.
So of course we emphasize again, develop your ethics. Question what you see in your mind stream. Without that we cannot discriminate with objectivity.
When we work effectively in the path, we progress into higher states of consciousness. This is always occurs in accordance with the death of the ego. There are masters prophets who, due to hierarchy, they enter incredibly vast, beautiful states that for average persons is inaccessible, incomprehensible. There is a particular beauty to studying what is known as progressive states (ahwal) because there are prophets who were so elevated in their level of being, that it is very difficult to understand. But, they can inspire us to change, to reach those heights. We have to learn to remove the covers of our perceptions. Remove the veil, the egos, through vigilance.
I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq speak about the saying of the Prophet, “Something covers my heart so that I ask forgiveness of God Most High seventy times a day.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So this has to do with our work of self-observation. We see things many times, in our mind, that are very negative. And so we learn to ask forgiveness for our faults. We don't have to have any prayer formula, but remorse. This is what this quote from the Prophet means. We are taking account of our own internal states, our egotistical states, so that we can enter superior spiritual states, experiences.
“He said that the states of the Prophet were always in progressive development. When he moved from one condition to a higher one, it would sometimes happen that his attention returned to what he had advanced beyond. He used to count this ‘a covering’ compared to what he was attaining in the immediate condition, for his states were always in increase.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
So while this may not apply to us, this is something important to acknowledge. Advanced initiates enter states progressively higher and higher, in accordance with the death of desire, by descending into the subconsciousness, the unconsciousness, the infra-consciousness.
So a prophet that has moved very far beyond the ego, still needs to go even higher and higher, because they are refining their consciousness very much. So a profound mystical state which to us can be very high, could be a barrier for a prophet. Because they are developing so much that they are always entering higher states of infinitude, which of course is very difficult to comprehend where we are at, but with practice and meditation we understand more.
These are the levels of being which as Abdul Karim al-Jili stated "The path to God is short. The path in God is infinite. " So even upon attaining union with divinity, there are levels of knowledge of God which go higher. States that go even deeper into that source.
"The Truth’s capacities for depth and subtlety are without end. And since honor is due to the Truth. It is impossible to fully attain this; the servant is always involved in the refinement of his states. No spiritual significance is conveyed to anyone unless there is in his destiny something beyond it, to which it may transport him. This is the point of the saying, “What is good in the righteous is bad in those brought closer to God.” Junayd was asked about this, and recited: Explosions of light glitter when they appear Making a secret visible and giving news of unification.” ―Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
These explosions of light are samadhis, experiences, states. And they are a brief allusion to what true unification is, true religion, unity, the Being.
We will conclude with a quote from Samael Aun Weor. The basis of our meditation is silence and perception. Concentration and imagination produce comprehension. Concentration and imagination produce ecstasy, illumination, understanding. When our mind is calm like a lake, it can reflect the heavens. We can reflect superior states.
“Illumination and ecstasy come when the mind is silent, when the mind is quiet. Drowsiness in combination with meditation produces ecstasy. God searches the nothingness in order to fill it.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Aquarian Message
So if we wish to have those types of experiences, we must become empty. Empty of ego. Annihilate the ego. Abandon the ego, because in that nothingness, we can experience the true plenitude in beauty of God, who is a state of consciousness beyond all evidence and materiality. So it's good that we learn to study these states and even comprehend that there are levels and levels to that type of experience. And that is possible for us. Without that context, it is difficult to motivate ourselves, to know that there is a goal and that we can obtain it with patience and tenacity.
Questions and Answers
Question: I like to ask whether or not you know, besides just the telling us to okay meditate and quietude and things like that: did the Sufis have any specific practices that are, you know, that is known, that we can learn about?
Instructor: Yes, they speak abundantly about invocation and very commonly within the Sufi schools, they practice what's known as Dhikr, which means “remembrance” in Arabic. It can also mean invocation. In simple terms, this means mantra. Many Sufis will spend decades in their schools, in their masjid, under the jurisdiction or guidance of a Sheikh, a guru, a teacher, utilizing certain mantras.
So a very common one is Allah Hu Allah. They say these mantras out loud, repeatedly and in groups together, in unison, and many times they even encompass these mantras with dance, which is a very sacred form of religion. There has been a lot of controversy especially within the Muslim orthodoxy towards the Sufi schools, especially the Mevlevis, those who practice with the school of Rumi, the whirling dervishes in which those types of dances have been criticized.
But the purpose of any of those exercises like dance, sacred songs, and mantra, is in order to invoke energy. So they want to make sure that they unify song, mantra, movement in order to invoke divinity, and in that way, they bring in good energy. That energy helps to silence the mind, to concentrate the mind, to obtain serenity. Primarily because serenity is developed by working with sacred sounds.
The Sufis place emphasis on this. The mantra Allah Hu Allah relates to divinity on the Tree of Life, which is Ain Soph, Kether, Chokmah, Binah. As well as “Hu,” which means Spirit, Chesed: the Compassionate, the Merciful, which is why in the Qur’an it teaches Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim: “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
The Sufis would recite this mantra Allah Hu Allah. Those mantras help the Sufis to obtain union with God. So in that experience I related, I was experiencing my own inner Allah or experiencing the Absolute. Through 'Hu,’ which relates to the breath, the Spirit. So the breath is deeply related, the mantras are deeply related with energy, with the divine.
They also perform exercises of dream yoga, but especially by working with mantra. A lot of the exercises that the Sufis practice in the most esoteric sense are very well hidden, which is why you won't find many aspects of that doctrine publicized. However, from the writings of Samael Aun Weor, it is easy to see that there are exercises that they do in secret, especially alchemy. Transmutation. Meditation. I remember even being on YouTube and looking at a video clip of Sufi group. They were performing Ham-Sah. They were spinning performing the dervishes and breathing Ham Sah in unison, with music, in harmony. So the Sufis know this doctrine, but they don't publicize many hidden roots that we study openly. But there is that relationship there.
Question: Thank you for the explanation and I'm guessing that you know, the Sufis practice, even though not very publicized or published, that the the practices from Master Samael, like you said Ham-Sah, they are probably pretty much include a lot of what Sufis do, right?
Instructor: Yes. Remember that Sufism is still a very Piscean tradition. They are very well known for their conservative nature, keeping their most esoteric practices hidden. That tradition is especially very occluded, meaning: they don't give their practices openly, but the truth is that they do practice the whirling dervishes, such as the sacred rites [of rejuvenation], which we have many similarities to. But their knowledge is not given openly.
The Aquarian knowledge is very different. With the Aquarian doctrine these practices are available to everybody. We don't need to attend a [physical] teacher, a Sheikh, a Guru, a master, to receive these practices. They are available to anybody [Editor’s Note: However, the true master is not to be found in the physical world, but within our own consciousness]. The Age of Pisces was known for its system of instruction in which a Sheikh or master would have to individually pick a student and teach them directly from mouth to ear. Without that, they would not provide their knowledge openly and so they still maintain that system very diligently.
So it would be very difficult to find any of those schools explaining some of the things we are doing here, because with the Aquarian knowledge, in the Age of Aquarius, the exercises for transformation are given openly. The only one who had authority to really do so with the accordance with the White Lodge was Samael Aun Weor, specifically.
Question: I have a question regarding something you said in the beginning about discipline of practice. In the book study ,that one of the first chapters in the book [Fundamentals of Gnostic Education] talks about discipline and the need to not have discipline. Now. I am guessing that you mean something else than what Samael Aun Weor is talking about by discipline and I'm wondering what it is that you mean when you say talk about discipline and practice.
Instructor: Sure, so the statement that the Master Samael Aun Weor makes in Fundamentals of Gnostic Education is a reference to the kind of rigid systems that people adopt intellectually in the mind, especially in relation to certain studies, such as at schools or academies. That type of discipline of intellectual study and eclectic approaches to any kind of field of knowledge, without a practical dimension, is useless.
It is useless to study any discipline of any field, whether in astronomy, science, anything—if it's not grounded in some type of practical work. So in the context of that book, he is referring a lot to the tendency in people to want to merely leave everything in the intellect through rigorous intellectual discipline, like getting a doctorate or PhD or being very obtuse in one's knowledge, specific to one thing that really doesn't address the heart, or the soul.
Real spiritual discipline is when we work on the mind. Samael Aun Weor speaks abundantly in other books, like Igneous Rose, that we must submit ourselves to profound esoteric discipline, which means meditate. Restrain the mind. Conquer the mind. But the danger is, especially with analysis or any religion, that we just study things intellectually and leave it there. The problem with that is that we may have a lot of knowledge intellectually, a lot of discipline intellectually, taking a lot of time in our schedule to read a lot, but not having any practice. It makes people unbalanced.
The essence of real spiritual discipline is combining our meditation with some type of study. One without the other is useless. But combining the two, we produce comprehension. Hope that answers your question.
Question: I think so. It reminds me of, I read about like lunar celibacy versus solar celibacy, and it seems like it's the difference between, I guess intellectually, deciding I'm going to do something or maintaining a rigid form of how something's going to go versus a preparation for which means an open-mindedness. So you're still involved. It's still very involved but it's how you're involved. Is that the way you participate differentiates discipline versus discipline?
Instructor: Real esoteric discipline involves both knowledge and being. We have to combine our studies with meditation. If we don't meditate on what we study, our understanding will be very shallow. But when you combine the two, spiritual experiences, with study of the doctrine, then it's very easy to remove any errors. We don't get confused.
In relation to lunar and solar celibacy, that is a little bit of a different practice. But yes, people who are commonly practicing what's called celibacy, they may read a lot of Christian writings or any other religion or teaching, but they don't really understand the practice of transmutation, working with the body and the energies, and so that's an incomplete discipline, which can relate to this dynamic. People can study that aspect of yoga and religion, but because they lack a practical dimension of what those traditions teach, they are confused and they suffer a lot. But real discipline is when we combine esoterically meditation, transmutation, service for others. Knowledge and being have to be united. Without that we don't comprehend anything.
Question: My question is about the stages of meditation and Master Samael Aun Weor talks about in Igneous Rose that appearing in the vision of the meditator, in a daily basis of the meditator. Like not particularly in the meditation session. I don't know if you are familiar with that quote.
Instructor: So you are saying that to have that experience is some kind of vision even when not in meditation?
Question: Yes. I think he called it color yellow, color red and I believe the third one is blue, and it's sort of like a stage. I believe he explains them as a stages of concentration you are maintaining throughout the day. How should we, if we receive that, how should you look? Is that like a phenomena? An experience? Is it something earned? It seems like it's coming and going and coming again. How should you look upon those things?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor mentions in Igneous Rose that as we develop our meditative practice we learn to start seeing visions and images, even when being physically active. He refers to this as clairvoyance, spiritual perception, which can form as a type of psychic imagery in the mind, the consciousness, the third eye between our eyebrows. He explains how if we're really diligent about meditation, we will start to understand more things relating to our daily life.
You can be physically active involved in other activities, at work, being with people, and he explains how suddenly we may start to perceive psychic imagery—understanding of the thoughts, emotions, and motives of other people. He refers to this as clairvoyance. It is a profound form of concentration, our attention, of where we are focused, on what we are doing. In that way we start to become inspired by what we see in other people and ourselves.
He also explains in other books that inspirational knowledge pertains to our understanding of interrelations, interdependence, how our thoughts and the thoughts and emotions of others, interrelate—to see that in a conscious way. It can occur with imagery, understanding other people based on that kind of perception, which doesn't have to just occur when we are sitting in our posture, in a silent room in the dark with eyes closed.
It is good to see more and more things, more internal states in relation to external events in the process of meditating. The Sufis speak a lot about this too. We have to learn to match our internal state with the external event, and that comes about by understanding what we perceive. So questioning our internal states, which can be positive or negative, we can learn how to judge, to comprehend, and images can occur as we are interacting with people. It happens quite often and it will happen more with greater clarity as we are refining our meditative practice too.
Question: In the same line, I would say, how can we understand that at the same moment without letting the mind doing the judgment? You know, if you feel something from someone, let's say the mind labels it as a negative, but you know that it isn't actually negative. Everything is a lesson and every everybody has their own Being. So how can we have all the situation's going into the positive or constructive way, even though they appear at the surface as a gossip or it's something that we don't want, you know, to happen?
Instructor: Comprehension occurs as a result of following our inner judgment. That voice of conscience that says this is right and this is wrong. In most cases we tend to follow our mind, which can be clouded, if confused and burdened with a lot of negative emotion. In order to understand what we experience and what is objective, we have to follow our heart. Your heart will tell you that this situation is negative or positive, or this internal state is wrong or good. The only issue is that as you've mentioned, or you’ve implied, we have a lot of ego. It is difficult to discern what is positive and what is negative, what is objective.
So the solution is, because our senses are very deceiving, our mind is very deceiving, even our emotions can be very deceiving, we have to learn how to clarify our attention. This is really the value of meditative practice, is that after a day of self-observation, in which you have seen or witnessed certain things, we have acted our best in the different circumstances of our jobs or family life, we go home, we sit, we relax, we suspend our senses. We work with energy. Circulate the vital force, through pranayama, mantras, or even sexual alchemy if one is married.
When meditating and looking deep within, visualizing that event that we have questions about, put that scene in the screen of our imagination and try to picture everything that happened. But without adding to or taking away.
Be honest. So learning to be honest is a combination of two things. Sincerity is developed in the moment when we see a state or action in us that is negative. Or we sense a negative thing. We may not act perfectly in the moment. In many cases, we tend to follow what our ego wants and we feel the consequences, the suffering resulting from that. So that internal state influenced the external events of our job or our daily activities. And if we feel that pain and suffering and remorse, and even if we acted rightly in the situation, meaning, we felt that we followed our heart and produced a situation beneficial for everybody, still we go home, we meditate, we close our eyes, visualize the scene, and imagine everything that happened relating to that moment.
What was the event? Who is involved? Where did it take place? What time of the day? And going even deeper, what was our mood? What were the thoughts associated with that moment? What were the feelings, the actions that we took, whether for good or for ill? And to ask our Divine Being our Divine Mother, al-Baqarah in Islam, the sacred cow, the divine feminine, to show us what in us needs to be understood.
In many cases, we have too many Impressions entering our mind stream in a moment, which can be very intense and difficult to control and to decipher. So if we get overloaded by that event and may have acted wrongly, we should learn to say, “Well, I made a mistake or I think I did well in this situation, but let me go home later and meditate and examine that situation deeply,” because there may be certain behavior subconsciously that we are not aware of yet.
And this is really the importance of meditation. Real profound change, elimination of our internal states in our daily life, can only occur when we meditate. It is a combination of our daily work, being physically active in the day, learning the sweetness of worship by fulfilling our obligations, as the Sufis state.
So remember that quote that states that we learn to feel sweetness of worship in our outward deeds. This is the first step. We gather data about our ego. Moment by moment, instant by instant. Following our heart to the best of our ability. There are occasions where we may feel that joy, that sweetness in the heart that says, “I know I did the right thing,” or perhaps remorse, “I felt that I did a bad thing.”
Ecstasy occurs, understanding occurs, comprehension evolves, unfolds when we make inner effort. Meaning: go home, retrospect your day, visualize the scene as it happened and ask divinity to help you understand what was going on there and how you could have acted if the situation was wrong, or if one behave badly. That is the only way to really gain clarity, because it's difficult to trust what we see.
We tend to be very clouded people, but it is inevitable that if we are saving our energies meditating daily, reviewing our day, imagining those scenes and asking for understanding and comprehension of the ego, that naturally as we go back to work the next day or repeat the same situation, we will start to see things more and more. If we are changing more profoundly, psychologically, it means that we will act in better and better ways and that conscience in our heart gets stronger.
Question: I wanted to ask you at the beginning, when I first started studying, I only focused on you know, just the intellectual part, like just reading and reading and reading until I can build my practices little by little, but I'm still not... like sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough. Obviously. I am not doing enough, but I wanted to know what is the significance of the difference between, I guess, the [Church of] Laodicea and the Church of Philadelphia! because I was meditating and I went to a place and it was very beautiful, and I asked them what that place was and there was an older man. He said this was Philadelphia, so I'm not sure. Then later I see, well, you know, there's the two glands but maybe I'm not doing enough or I don't know. I don't know what that meant.
Instructor: Those two chakras, our churches, between the eyebrows, Philadelphia, and the Church of Laodicea at the crown, those chakras are known as the Chakra Ajna and the Chakra Sahasrara according to Eastern mysticism. According to the Book of Revelation they are known as churches, and the Sufis refer to these centers as Lataif, the seven world centers [seven organs of perception] in which the powers of the initiate are developed through the help of a master according to Sufi tradition.
Philadelphia literally means “brotherly love.” Philos, delphia: love of humanity, and that has to do with perceptions relating to astral projection, clairvoyance, understanding thought, understanding our own selves, self-observation, awareness. A lot of people like to think that this term clairvoyance only applies to a few people who have a special gift. It is a French term that means “clear vision.” It was invented by a group of people to confuse humanity to make them think that only a few people could have that knowledge, which is a mistake. It was an effort to deflect people from studying their knowledge.
But the reality is that clairvoyance or perception means “imagination.” It's the ability to perceive spiritual images. That clarity of vision occurs in the astral plane, especially, when we awaken in the dream state, or when we are meditating and we start to see images. They can be experiences or landscapes, as I said. Lights, illumination, internal states of the soul. Those visions greatly vary and apply to what we experience in meditation in terms of imagery, psychic experiences, visuals, sounds, even.
Sounds can also relate to the chakra of the throat which is the Church of Sardis in the Book of Revelation, relating to sound, mystical sounds. Those centers are active when we calm the body, calm the heart, calm the mind.
It gets deeper more and more as we are practicing self-observation, as well as imagination exercises. Meaning, we take an image and visualize it and try to picture it with clarity between our eyebrows. We have to develop that type of perception when we are in our work of self-observation.
It is a profound form of clairvoyance to see the ego objectively. To separate as an observer to the observed. The soul, the consciousness, is observing then the nafas, the ego, the animal "I’s,” the lower soul, desires, according to the Sufis. And learning to separate from that we develop greater clarity of perception.
A lot of factors pertain to that element, but the primary one is, in accordance to the name of Philadelphia, philos-delphia, love of humanity, brotherly love, we develop that chakra profoundly when we eliminate anger, because the opposite of brotherly love is hatred. If you want to develop that type of perception with greater clarity, illumination of the soul, we have to learn to eliminate negative internal states, the ego.
This is why in that excerpt from The Aquarian Message we read, "God searches the nothingness in order to fill it." If we are filled with anger, we cannot reflect God. Anger ripples the mind, the lake of the mind. It makes it agitated, and therefore the images of the superior world cannot reflect in our meditation and likewise in our daily states. If we are not working on that negative emotion in our daily life, we won't see with clarity. It will be difficult to understand right from wrong, to observe our own egos in action. But if we develop serenity, love of humanity, the mind calms, we transform our situation, we see our perception, our situation with clarity.
But even beyond that is the crown chakra, which is much higher. It has to do with very elevated experiences like the one I related to you all tonight, in which you leave behind the universe and enter the states of Being which are beyond thought, feeling, and will. Those are states that we can only understand through experience, but it's good that when you are meditating and studying and practicing, that you learn about these experiences so that when it happens you don't get confused.
We are going back to your comments and your question is, that if you want a greater clarity in your perceptions, if you want to understand what that aspect of your soul is, Philadelphia, the Church of the third eye, that Chakra Ajna, we have to learn how to develop serenity, patience, and love. Without that we don't have any clarity in what we see. Sometimes our perception, that third eye, can be negative if it's charged with pessimism, resentment, negativity. Therefore, everything we see will be clouded from that element, which is why when people are filled with anger, they don't see clearly. They can't rationalize. But it seems that the experience you just related has to do with the beauty of the soul that learns how to see with objectivity.
The Church of Philadelphia internally is very beautiful. All the churches of the Gnostic movement are very beautiful and profound. So there are places that you can visit internally, but also relates to certain qualities, perception. So if it's a beautiful experience that you had, it would seem to be that it's indicating to you the beauty of your own clairvoyance when it is pure. If it's clouded by negative internal states, then it becomes a problem. Hope that answers your question.
Question: Yeah, it does because I think this was like a gift like you were saying so that it would motivate me to work towards that.
Instructor: Yes. That is usually how those experiences unfold.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
So the purpose of this course is to study and understand, as well as apply the principles of meditation. Meditation in its heart has been taught in the core of every religion, but in accordance with the skills or dispositions, the needs, the qualities of the students, and the particular culture in which this teaching has been given. So in Gnosticism we study a variety of faiths, a variety of teachings, which all point towards the development of the soul.
In the spirit of universality and study, we are going to be examining in this course how the Sufis taught the science of meditation. Sufism is a very beautiful teaching, but which unfortunately is not very well studied in the West; neither is it understood or practiced well, primarily because in Western society, Sufism has taken an academic role, where it has been exclusively limited to discussions and polemics of academies. But in its practical essence, Sufism teaches us how to understand our way of being, who we are fundamentally—to see and comprehend the path that leads out of suffering and towards the personal experience of the divine.
Some of you may be familiar with the poet Rumi. He’s actually the most popular poet in the west. He stated: “Remember that the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.” So this statement is very profound and applies to the science of meditative knowledge: how we explore ourselves to perceive and understand what in us makes us suffer and what we can do to change.
Samael Aun Weor, the founder of the modern gnostic tradition, wrote in The Spiritual Power of Sound:
“It is completely impossible to experience the Being, the Innermost, the Reality (the divine) without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound: “The ‘I’ and the Being”
Meditation as denominated by the Sufis is mushahida. It means contemplation, to witness, to perceive. If you've heard or studied the public teachings of Islam, they have a very famous statement or declaration of faith called the Shahadah, which is the famous postulation: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His prophet.” In a profound way, to witness divinity, to witness the truth in ourselves, to experience what religion calls God, that all depends on meditation—because to bear witness of something, we have to see it. We have to perceive it. And that is what meditation is for. To see divinity. To know divinity. To not believe or leave that knowledge exclusively in the intellect or a sentiment in the heart. To really bear witness of the truth is to be a practical meditator. To practice contemplation, mushahida. That is how we enter the sanctuary inside of us, because all of us have divinity, the reality, the Being inside.
Samael Aun Weor, who founded our tradition, explained that Sufism teaches about the level of being, qualities of consciousness and also the way to perceive in ourselves, to understand the obstacles: that which conditions us and makes us suffer, by perceiving in us that which gives us pain. There is a way to change and to experience what divinity is, what religions have called divinity, no matter what the name from whatever culture.
So the purpose of meditation is to comprehend, to remove suffering and to elevate our consciousness to a better state than what we are presently in.
Meditation is not a technique. It's a way of being, a state of consciousness. Meditation is a profoundly lucid, pristine, cognizant state, that is free of conditioning.
So let us examine ourselves, if we aspire to learn meditation, to fully practice it. What in us is conditioned? What in us makes us suffer? What psychological states do we experience that are problematic for us, that make others suffer, that create conflicts at work and home, in the bedroom? What in us produces our pain?
To change all that, to no longer be afflicted, we practice the science of meditation. It is a state of consciousness: one in which we clearly perceive in us that which needs to change, which can be transformed. Because only from the state of equanimity, of dispassion, of calm, can we truly change our situation.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not daydreaming. It is not fantasizing or spacing out. Neither is it a dull state, a torpidity of mind, a cloudiness. Neither is it simply relaxing. Relaxation is essential, but it is not the state of meditation. It is what leads to it, what sets the foundation.
Meditation is the science of perception, of witnessing the truth for ourselves, to practice mushahida.
By comprehending ourselves, we learn to perceive clearly, because fundamentally all of us struggle with anger, with pride, with fear, with resentment, with envy, with lust. These are qualities of being which are very negative: fear that debilitates, that conditions, that traps the essence of who we really are.
Fortunately in religion and any meditative teaching there is a path that leads out of those conditioned states. But what it requires is a type of renunciation, a type of work, a type of practice. And this practice helps us to perceive the reality of our situation. Not what we believe or we fantasize, what we want to change simply with the intellect, by thinking or feeling, or daydreaming about a utopia, a better situation.
Meditation is the means by which we practically apply profound principles of understanding. As we say in this tradition: “Meditation is the daily bread of the Gnostic.” That bread is understanding, because when we understand something in us, when we comprehend defects like anger or pride or resentment, we can learn to remove them. Comprehension is the sustenance of the soul. Comprehension is essential. Understanding the conflicts of our mind and where they originate produces peace, equanimity, serenity.
And so the reason why we suffer is because we don't have equanimity. We don't perceive clearly in us what makes us suffer. Sadly humanity does not really understand or apply the methods for change. People suffer because they do not perceive reality as it is. We have desires that want the external world to change and yet we don't change fundamentally. Because of conditioned elements like fear and pride and anger and lust, we see life through the lens of these desires. Reality is one way, our desires want something else. And because our desires are never satisfied, never fulfilled, we go on through our existence, repeating mistakes, suffering, wanting the situation to change, yet not changing our own perspective.
It would be more radical and interesting if we were to transform our own mental states, because by changing who we are inside, we learn to change our situation.
So in a symbolic way, all of us are addicted to psychological states that produce suffering. But unfortunately we don't like to see this in ourselves. It's not a pleasant truth to understand: that we produce our own suffering and that we also make other people suffer too.
An alcoholic, someone who is addicted to intoxicating substances, may know intellectually that the desire or craving for alcohol is harmful, yet that person may continue to indulge in that desire, that state. They continue to suffer. So we may know on some level, whether we have experienced drug addiction or alcoholism, that engaging in that element is harmful. We may continue to do so anyways.
While this is a very extreme case, this is an example of our daily state. An addict knows that that addiction is wrong, but continues to feed that desire. And because desire never equates with reality, that person continues to suffer. The reality of engaging in that desire is to feel more and more pain, more suffering. And so all of us have addictions, perhaps not to substances, but to states of anger, of fear, of pride, because we want our situation to be a certain way, according to our egotism and desires. And yet because reality is what it is, we fight against it and suffer.
That is the state of the ego, egotism, the self, which we explore in our studies of meditation and seek to comprehend. Because by comprehending desire and the origins of our traumas, our sufferings, we reach the state of equanimity and change.
So on a basic level, we do not comprehend how our own desires make us suffer, because if we understood our desires and how they are never satisfied, we would not act on them or feed them. Because desire, which is always in conflict with reality, can never be filled, never be quenched. And when we don't get what we want, we suffer. That is a state of mind, of egotism.
The Reality of Suffering and Internal Transformation
This is why our world is what it is today, with all of its wars, its chaos, its afflictions. Humanity is in a state of crisis and people like to change the world with politics and theories and beliefs. People attempt to resolve the external situation without even considering how we psychologically are the cause of all the pain in this world. If the individual were to examine him or herself, his or her own mental states, which cause violence, extortion, prostitution, destruction—such a person would comprehend and would enact a superior way of being, a better way of acting, of relating to the world.
Samael Aun Weor wrote in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology that:
“All things, all circumstances that occur outside of ourselves on the stage of this world are exclusively the reflection of what we carry within.”
It is a very difficult realization to make, but anybody who approaches spirituality sees in themselves, observes in themselves, how their states of egotism are the exact reflection of the chaos we see humanity in today. Society is the individual. It is a reflection of the individual mind. Trying to change the society in which we live can never produce results, if the individual does not change him or herself. It is a fundamental law of nature, a dynamic. The society is the individual. How we relate to others is a reflection of our own internal psychological states in which Sufism teaches us very beautifully how to comprehend, to analyze, to know.
“With good reason then we can solemnly declare that the ‘exterior is a reflection of the interior.’ When someone changes internally and if that change is radical, then circumstances, life and the external also change.” —Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So the science of meditation is what will lead us towards that change. As Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Great Rebellion:
“In life, the only thing of importance is a radical, total and definitive change. The rest frankly, is of no importance at all.”
So when we study Sufism or any tradition, meditation, we have to be very tired of suffering. We have to be very firm in our resolve, to work on our own mistakes and not to blame others. To change who we are. Because if we cannot change ourselves, it is impossible to change another person, to influence them, to help them. So therefore if we are really working effectively in ourselves, then our situation will change. It is a law of nature, like gravity, like attraction.
What we are psychologically attracts the circumstances of our life. If we are drunkards, we will be at the bar with other drunkards. If we are lawyers, we will be with other lawyers. If we are studying spirituality, we will meet others in a positive sense who are studying the same type of teaching, who also want to change. And so these type of influences help, or don't, depending on our state of mind.
We have to examine the facts. This is the radical zero-base by which we approach the science of meditation, because meditation is a state of consciousness. It is a state of understanding. It's about acquiring information, acquiring data. We have to see and look into ourselves, to witness that which causes our affliction—to see it, not to daydream, to theorize, to believe, to think we are a certain way, because of our cultural heritage or experience, but simply to look, to examine, to perceive.
Because as I provided the example of an alcoholic, they may know intellectually that their desire for alcohol is destructive, that it causes harm. They may intellectually know this and yet continue to engage in that desire itself. So what is missing in this example is observation of the facts: looking at what the situation is, what is the reality.
“Gnosis is lived upon facts, withers away in abstractions and it is difficult to find even in the noblest of thoughts.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
So this term gnosis is Greek. It means knowledge, but not of the intellectual type. It is conscious experiential perception of reality. There are many levels of this perception, just as within the Muslim or Sufi doctrine there are levels of witnessing the truth.
So you've all heard the famous public declaration of faith: "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadun rasul Allah” (There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet). There are many people who recite this declaration and believe that they are now followers of God and that they are saved, simply because they think a certain way or feel a certain way.
But unfortunately, gnosis is lived upon facts, it withers away in abstractions. It is an abstraction to believe in a concept, that one is a follower of a tradition, or thinks that one is a saint, to believe that we are holy people because of our religion, of a institution, of a group. These are just concepts. They don't relate to the reality of our situation, about what we are psychologically. Believing in God does not change our anger in a moment of crisis. When we are criticized, we respond or react negatively and create problems, suffering for ourselves and others.
This declaration of faith on a public level does not really do anything, although people are welcome to practice and believe what they want. But in this teaching we like to be practical. What does it mean to witness divinity? To bear witness of something? It means that we've experienced it.
To witness something, or a person who is a witness in a court of law, sees an event with objectivity (hopefully). But in that situation, when we say we have seen something, it's because we've experienced it. It is what we know. It is not what we believe. To really bear witness that there is a divinity inside of us—and that there are many masters of humanity, of any tradition, that we have experienced—is another thing. It's another thing to really have that knowledge for ourselves from experience.
So what is this declaration of faith mean in a more profound level? To bear witness means that one is practicing mushahida, which is the Arabic term for meditation. Because in a state of meditation, when we have abandoned our conditions of mind, our negative internal states, we can in turn enter in to states of consciousness that are more elevated and that are beyond physicality. The body goes to sleep and the consciousness can experience truths that are beyond physical matter and energy. Some people call these dreams, lucid dreams, out of body experiences, astral projections, jinn experiences.
These are states of consciousness that are very real and the one who has experienced them knows those states primarily because of facts, because fulfilling the necessary principles of meditation, by working practically with them, and therefore such a person does not need to believe in anything—doesn't believe in a tradition, doesn't think something is true or think God is there, but knows it, because one has the experience. It is no longer an abstraction, and that unity of God, that the public teaching of Islam fundamentally ignores, is something inside. People like to believe in God as some anthropomorphic figure in the clouds, who dispenses lightning bolts to this poor anthill of a humanity. That figure does not exist. Instead it's better to think of, or conceptualize in the beginning, of divinity as a state of consciousness, which is inside of us, our true nature.
The Unity of God and the Soul
And so that unity that there is only one God is something psychological, internal, profound. That unity is a state of being which is very pure, has no suffering, has no pain, no anger, no lust, no desire. It is a definitive state of liberation. But if we look at ourselves and look at the facts of our experience, we find that we have many different desires. We have anger and pride and fear and laziness and gluttony. In one moment we may desire to have coffee cake—in the next watch television, go on YouTube, get into an argument. We are constantly conflicted, moving in multiple directions all at once. We have many desires which are not unitary, they are actually disparate, conflicting, contradictory.
We are a walking paradox, because physically we have this body which is unitary or works as a unit, but psychologically we are not a unit. We are very conflicted and this is why people suffer so much, why we are in the situation we are in. Because we don't look at the reality of our mind.
So meditation is about gathering data about that multiplicity of desires and discursive factors in us, which we seek to comprehend and to eliminate, to change. Meditation is how we see clearly in us what needs to change. Therefore “Gnosis is lived upon facts, it withers away in abstractions,” ideas, beliefs, “and it is difficult to find even in the noblest of thoughts.” So religion as it is taught today has very noble aspirations, but we have to look at the practical aspects of these doctrines, of these methods, to see what works and what doesn't. Because if humanity continues to suffer and we continue to suffer, it means that we are not changing fundamentally. This is the radical foundation by which we address ourselves when we study this type of teaching.
There is a Sufi initiate, a Sufi teacher by the name of Al-Junayd. He was quoted in a book called Al-Risalah, which simply means Principles of Sufism. He elaborates and even confirms what Samael Aun Weor states in this quote from The Revolution of the Dialectic:
“Al-Junayd states: To affirm the unity means to distinguish the eternal from ephemeral.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So what does it mean to affirm God? To know divinity, to have that divinity manifest in our very thoughts, our very words, our very deeds, our very ways of acting, our life. To have happiness that is eternal, that is unconditioned, that is pure. It means to distinguish that which is eternal from that which is ephemeral. Meaning, get through the illusions.
Look at the illusions that we continue to engage in about ourselves. It means to look at that which is not concrete, which is not real. Because all these desires, according to any meditative tradition, are not our true identity. Our true identity is happiness, a state of contentment, a state of peace. And so everything else is arbitrary. It is not eternal, and therefore we have to learn how to go inside of ourselves, to calm the mind and to learn to remove the conditions that have trapped us, that we put into place.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the greatest poet of the Sufi tradition stated:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Therefore we have to rely on facts, observe ourselves, gather data about what we are doing at any given moment. To practice awareness of ourselves. Because as Al-Jurayri, again from this book Principles of Sufism, teaches:
“If someone does not seek to acquire the knowledge of the Unity (of divinity, from experience) through some kind of evidence, the foot of his delusion will slip into an abyss of destruction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Of course this is a very serious case, but any person who approaches meditation does so because they no longer want to suffer in life, and want to change themselves. We have to rely on evidence; look at what we are. Do not assume we are a certain way, or think intellectually we are or possess certain qualities, but simply to look, to observe, to not daydream. But also not to seek for love, but to look at ourselves, to see what has trapped it. Because by removing these imperfections in ourselves, we can truly experience what love is.
The Three Levels of Meditative Instruction
Meditation was taught in the schools of Sufism very similar to many other traditions. There is an introductory teaching, there is an intermediate teaching, and there is an advanced teaching.
The following words are Arabic: There is Shari’ah (introductory level), there is Tarīqah, (the intermediate level) and there is Haqiqah / Ma’rifah (the advanced level). These are respectively an exoteric or public teaching, a mesoteric or intermediate teaching, and a hidden, secret mystical teaching, an esoteric teaching.
If you study Buddhism you're very familiar with the three schools: Śrāvakayāna, Mahayana, Tantrayana.
We are going to explain a little bit about these terms because they hold a lot of value for studying what meditation is and how to practically and effectively apply it.
People hear the term Shari’ah and in the West this term has a lot of baggage. People associate Shari’ah with Shari’ah law, as the punitive laws of Muslim countries, in which people have been stoned or executed, have been harmed. And sadly people have used that aspect of, or misinterpreted the original intent of this term. Shari’ah simply means law, but it is not a cultural law. It is not morals. It is not dogma.
The Sufis have a very interesting interpretation of what Shari’ah means. It simply means conduct, how one acts. Shari’ah as a public teaching, in the true sense, refers to how we produce actions which bring about the harmony and happiness of others, but also ourselves. This is known as ethics, codes of conduct, ways of being. It has nothing to do with the violence that is truly afflicting the Middle East. Whether people would like to interpret certain scriptures for their own benefit, to promote degeneration and destruction is one thing, but the Sufis have always explored the Qur’an and other mystical writings from a symbolic point of view.
Shari’ah refers to in its true sense, ways of being, superior ways of acting, such as compassion, kindness, understanding, love. It also means to refrain from those negative states of mind which produced suffering: anger, fear, pride, etc. This is the most introductory level of any meditative tradition. Ethics. Producing causes of happiness in oneself. Actions that produce harmony, peace and refraining from behaviors, even mentally and emotionally, which cause conflict.
The intermediate state which is built off of this foundation has to do with the heart. Tarīqah means “path,” and the Sufis explain that this is the path one follows in the desert of life. All of us are in particular situations in life, our experiences. We all have our own sufferings and hardships. We are symbolically wandering in the desert. Tarīqah has to do with those special practices that are for the benefit of others. The introductory level of religion, ethics, has more to do with training our own negative mental states and producing positive states. But the path of spirituality, Tarīqah, is working more for the benefit of others.
So this is a very profound shift in one's focus, in which our meditation is not just about us. We learn to change who we are so that we don't affect others negatively.
I believe there is a statement by a famous Sufi master. His name is Ibn Arabi. He said that he would always go on retreats, khalwa in Arabic, in order to not abandon the world, to avoid negative people, but he would go off into the desert or wherever in order to reflect on himself and work on himself, so that he did not affect others. He said most people enter retreat because they want to avoid bad people, the cities, whatever. But what Tarīqah, the mesoteric level of meditation, the heart of any religion, is more about working for the benefit of others.
We meditate not just for our own benefit, to know divinity for ourselves, but in order to express positive states of being with others. To produce the happiness of others.
This is the path that leads us towards the highest stages of realization. When we work for others, when we develop compassion, when we eliminate states like anger, we are in turn preparing ourselves for even higher degrees of understanding, which is Haqiqah, Ma’rifah.
Haqiqah is truth from the Arabic Al-Haqq, which is one of the names of divinity given in Islam. Ma’rifah means knowledge. Again this is the Arabic equivalent of the word in Greek, gnosis. This is the esoteric teaching. It is the hidden teaching. It has to do with certain practices which are very expedient, in which people who have fully established themselves in meditation and are working for the benefit of others can receive methods and practices in order to truly advance. To have more power and energy and work by which to impact others positively.
This is the equivalent of Tantrayana, the teachings of tantrism or the perfect matrimony explained by Samael Aun Weor. It is the teachings of alchemy according to medieval science, the science of a marriage, how a couple can work together in their matrimony, in their union, in order to transform everything they are for humanity.
Ibn Arabi, who is called the greatest of Sufi teachers, stated that in the introductory level of Shari’ah, “What is yours is yours and what is mine is mine.” There is separatism. Individuals work primarily on their own minds, so that they no longer suffer. In the intermediate path, Tarīqah, “What is yours is mine and what is mine is yours,” he says. People share and commune and work together. People work on their minds, their hearts, in order to help humanity as a whole. And then in the advanced state, Haqiqah, Ibn Arabi states: “Nothing belongs to you or me.” Because at that state of meditation, one is working very seriously and is impacting humanity out of the state of selflessness. For Ma’rifah, he says: “There is no you or me.” There is only God.
This is the highest teaching of religion, because the word religion from the Latin religare means “to reunite.” This is when the soul or consciousness in meditation and through this type of work has united as a consciousness with the Truth, Al-Haqq. No matter what name is given to that Truth, no matter what religion, that divinity. This is a very profound state and at that level in which one can truly say “There is no god but God and Jesus is His prophet, and Buddha is His prophet, and Krishna, Moses, Muhammad, whomever, are His prophets.” That is the highest experience of the truth which we can taste in the beginning if we're working seriously. But these levels are developed gradually, progressively, as we are practicing the requisites.
The Divine Law, the Way, and the Inner Reality
There are some very beautiful teachings about meditation and these dynamics explained by a Sufi writer by the name of Al-Qushayri. He wrote in the book called Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism explanations which are very profound about understanding what this past level instruction entails. He states:
“The divine Law [Shari’ah] commands one to the duty of servanthood.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again, what is this divine law? Some of you may be familiar with Buddhism, with karma, cause and effect, action and consequence. The divine law is acting for the benefit of others. Curtailing negative emotions so that one no longer suffers oneself.
“The divine Law commands one to the duty of servanthood [to serve divinity].” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is not a belief. It's a factual practice in which when we are confronted, such as at work, we may be criticized; we feel anger rising in ourselves, hurt self esteem, pride. We learn to serve divinity by not acting on those elements. By first restraining ourselves consciously, looking at ourselves and not acting from a state of negativity. That is how we serve God in us. We don't enact our desires. We learn to act with the soul, with consciousness.
“The Way [Tarīqah], the inner Reality [Haqiqah] is the contemplation of divine lordship.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So what is this inner reality as we were saying? It is gnosis. It is experience. When in meditation, we experience what divinity is. It also means that we comprehend ourselves, all of that which clouds the mind, which prevents us from reflecting that divine truth in ourselves.
“Outward religious practice not confirmed by inner reality is not acceptable. Inner reality not anchored by outward religious practice is not acceptable.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What is outward religious practice? It has to do with any type of exercise in our tradition or any tradition which is not confirmed, not understood, which is not experienced. It has to be validated by inner reality. Meaning, if we're practicing meditation or any type of exercise, such as pranayama, runes, sacred rites of rejuvenation, mantras, any type of practice, which we are using to develop our spirituality, has to be verified by inner reality. We have to genuinely perceive how these practices work. How they are effective. Because simply going through the motions of praying mechanically does not produce any results. Therefore this type of practice is not acceptable. We have to really vividly, consciously understand the purpose of any exercise, so that we can become prepared for meditation.
“Inner reality not anchored by outward religious practice is also not acceptable.” Meaning, having any type of experience, weather in dreams, or in meditation, which have nothing to do with our practice is also not acceptable.
There are many people who by engaging in this type of exercises start to see things in themselves. They have dreams or visions. But unfortunately because the mind is so conditioned, we are so afflicted with ego, that all we are seeing in many cases is a reflection of our own subjectivity, our own conditions. So if someone is filled with anger, they see through anger. They have dreams and visions and experiences filtered through that element.
Unfortunately we have a lot of egotism and we project a lot of our mind into our dreams when the physical body is asleep. So having those type of inner experiences, not grounded in any type of ethics, is unacceptable. If we have visions or perceptions, which are not grounded in our spiritual practices, is also not acceptable. We have to learn to differentiate that which is objective from that which is false, and this is the fundamental quality of meditation. It's discernment. To discern what is ephemeral from what is eternal.
“Divine Law brings obligation upon the creation, while the Way is founded upon the free action [or experience] of the real.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this path of ethics, divine law, is an obligation upon us. Divinity does not want us to suffer. Divinity wants us to enact positive actions which produce happiness. It is an obligation. It is a trust and a tryst. It is an agreement that anyone takes, when they are seriously working and looking in themselves to change. And so this way is founded, meditation is founded upon the free action or experience of the truth. We have to perceive and experience these things for ourselves, what religion, scriptures and practices actually entail, and their results.
“The divine Law is that you serve Him, the Way is that you see Him.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How do we serve divinity? When we are with our loved ones, our parents or family members are really provoking our anger, our self-esteem, our pride—we want to be sarcastic, negative, harmful, hurtful with our speech—we serve divinity when we refrain from those behaviors. That is how we serve divinity. Because religion is about bringing communities together, creating harmony.
“The Way is that we see Him.” In the beginning we don't see divinity. We all want experiences, to have some type of ecstasy of the soul in which we talk face-to-face with our own inner Being, our inner God. Unfortunately, because we are conditioned, we don't see that in the beginning typically, unless we are really working seriously. We serve divinity by fulfilling ethics and we learn to see divinity when we fulfill those basic requirements. Because when we act on egotism, we feed desire and continue to cloud and condition our mind.
As Prophet Muhammad taught in the oral tradition of Islam, there is an organ in the body which, when it is pure, can reflect the truth. It is like a mirror. If it is cloudy, it cannot reflect anything—it is dirty. But when it is polished, it can reflect the truth. That organ is the heart, and the polish for the heart is remembrance—to remember divinity in those moments in which we are really tested. We are provoked to the edge, and yet we refrain from acting on those negative qualities of mind and that we, in turn, enact positive, superior action. That is how we polish our heart, refine our conduct, so that we can see divinity, to know divinity and therefore it is no longer a theory. It is what we experience.
“The divine Law is doing what you have been ordered to do. Haqiqah is bearing witness to what it is determined and ordained, hidden and revealed.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again Haqiqah, Truth, to know reality, the Being.
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say that God's saying [in the Opening Surah, Al-Fatihah of the Qur'an] iyyaka nabudu—"You we worship"—preserves the outward practice, the divine Law. Iyyaka nastain—"to You we turn for help"—establishes the inner reality, the Way.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So those of you who are not familiar with the Qur’an, one of the most commonly recited prayers in the Muslim tradition states from the very opening of this book:
In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and to You we turn for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
―Al-Fatihah: The Opening
“You alone we worship.” That is Shari’ah, the divine law. But why? What does it mean to worship divinity in accordance with meditative science?
It doesn't mean to believe or feel in the heart that one is a saint or a good person. To worship divinity is to have that respect and even that anxiety in moments of great trial in which we are truly tested.
We worship divinity by our actions, not through any type of mechanical, canonical prayer, by reciting words, which can have meaning or not. We demonstrate our worship in divinity by our level of acting, our level of being, how we behave in moments of great trial. We worship divinity when we don't feed anger, pride, lust, because we know that those qualities of mind will produce suffering for ourselves and others. We worship divinity because we want to make divinity manifest in us.
So this is the outward practice: “You we worship.” And then the inner reality is established by: “To you we turn for help.” So how is it also that we can worship divinity? It is very simple. We practice concentration, we relax the body, we focus in ourselves and silence our mind. Remove the obscurations of the psyche. Don't think so much. Ask a question of your inner divinity for help, for insight. When we concentrate our mind, we are performing a type of worship, because the distracted mind, a discursive mind, a fractured mind, cannot reflect anything true. It is simply conditioned by its own negativity.
“You we worship” is a type of concentration in which we abandon the mind, we abandon thinking, we abandon emotion, we relax the body, relax everything that we think we are and achieve a type of stillness. When we attain quietude in the mind, when we are no longer thinking so much, when thoughts are no longer there, when the heart is at peace, we can then receive the inner reality, the way. That is when we turn for help. Because remember that the mind and the heart are like a mirror, or even like a lake. If the lake is turbid, filled with waves and conflict, if it is churning with emotion, it cannot reflect any images on it's surface. But when it's still, it can reflect the heavens, the stars, nature.
And this is an allegory of our own meditative practice. “You we worship.” We concentrate. We relax the mind. We silence the mind. And then, when we're no longer thinking, insight, spontaneous, intuitive, emerges. We receive understanding. We can even receive experiences where we witness different states of consciousness, which are not physical. Imagery, which is not physical. Experiences that are beyond our physical reality. This is the inner way. This is how we turn for help. This is when we receive understanding, comprehension and with comprehension there is serenity, there is understanding and peace. When we understand the cause of a certain fault in us or a certain problem, we are no longer afflicted, and then we obtain religion.
“Know that religious obligation is a spiritual reality in that it was made necessary by His command. And spiritual reality, as well, is a religious obligation, in that the realizations of Him were also made necessary by His command.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Another very famous Sufi from the Persian tradition, wrote corroborating the thoughts of Al-Qushayri. His name is Abdullah Ansari of Herat, from the book Stations of the Sufi Path:
“Now, the divine law (Shari’ah) is entirely the divine truth (Haqiqah), and the divine truth is entirely expressed in the divine law, and the foundation of actual realization of the divine truth is the divine law and the claim to follow the law.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So don't think of a law or this law as something physical, political, social. This law has to do with consciousness. Certain behaviors produce sorrow and pain. Certain states of consciousness produce happiness. By learning to work on ourselves, we can learn to experience this truth.
“The divine law and following that law without realizing the divine truth is useless, just as claiming to realize the divine truth without practicing and understanding the divine law is useless. So all those who act without integrating and realizing both of these together are acting in vain.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Simply believing in a tradition is useless. To say, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet,” or to believe in Jesus, in the Buddha and whomever and following a type of moral system, does not change anyone. Morality is, again, different from ethics. Morality are beliefs about how one should act. But that does not mean that one acts consciously. Ethics is what we do practically ourselves, so that we can experience the truth.
The Three Blessings of the Sufis
We will conclude with a beautiful teaching again from the book Principles of Sufism. They talk a lot about three blessings, which synthesize and summarize the foundations of meditation according to the Sufi teachings. It's a very beautiful book that elaborates many anecdotes and stories of which we will relate a few.
There are three blessings: faith, submission and beautiful action, Iman, Islam, and Ihsan. So faith has nothing to do with belief. When you witness something for yourself, you have faith. You have experienced it. You know it. Even as basic as putting one's hand on a hot stove and getting burned. One has faith and knowledge and understanding, that to place one's hand on that kitchen stove is to get burned. That is a very basic level of understanding. But in a more profound sense, we have faith when we verify through meditation what divinity is. What consciousness is. And that certain actions are either the bane or the boon of the soul.
Islam simply means “submission” in Arabic, “to submit.” People like to think that in the public sense, Islam has to do with following a certain tradition or series of prayers, which is beautiful. But in a more profound sense we submit to divinity when we work on our mind. We no longer act on egotism and that is how we act beautifully, Ihsan.
If you’ve heard the Arabic name Hassan, it originates from this Arabic root Ihsan. It means beautiful action. To act with such clarity and intuition in great trials and crises. To do what is right in a moment of great difficulty. That is Ihsan. Actions like that of Jesus, when he was crucified. The love and selflessness he showed to his enemies is perhaps the greatest act of selfless love, a beautiful action, our humanity has ever witnessed.
All of us have that potential to act beautifully and these three blessings are emphasized in the following anecdote:
“[The Angel] Gabriel appeared to the Prophet in the form of a man, ‘O Muhammad,’ he said. ‘What is faith (iman)?’ The Prophet replied, ‘To believe in a God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and destiny—it’s good and bad, its sweet and bitter, come from God.’ ‘You have spoken the truth,’ said the visitor.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So he uses the term belief and in the original Arabic there are meanings which are much more profound. People commonly associate belief with thinking something is true or feeling something is true, but not knowing. Belief comes from be-lieve: to be through the power of love, which is not just an intellectual thing, but is an act of consciousness in which our very ways of acting, thinking, feeling, moving, behaving is done from love and remembrance of divinity. To be present, to be conscious.
“‘You have spoken the truth,’ said the visitor. We were surprised that someone would corroborate the Prophet, both questioning him and confirming what he said. ‘And inform me: What is Islam (submission to God’s will)?’ he continued. ‘Islam is to establish prayer, give the poor their dues, fast during the month of Ramadan and make the pilgrimage to the House of God.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is the public level of Islam, certain prayers that people adopt and fulfill in a type of kindergarten for the science of meditation. Prophet Muhammad was even known to have said: “An hour of contemplation is better than a year of prayer.” But in the beginning it is good to pray. To pray to whatever divinity or form of divinity we have an affinity for. Islam is to submit to divinity through our heart, through our actions, where our very ways of being is a form of prayer. We can pray five times a day towards Mecca or any type of tradition that studies meditation. We can adopt many prayers, which are very beautiful and useful. They are all very powerful. But what's essential is that when we pray, we don't think. We don't rationalize. We open up our heart. We reflect in ourselves how we need help.
And to meditate, because an hour of contemplation, is the greatest prayer. To observe ourselves and to learn about what makes us suffer is the greatest form of prayer. It is also in this way that we give the poor their dues, we help others. All of us are poor or poor in spirit, and humanity also is very poor, and needs help.
“To fast during the month of ramadan and to make the pilgrimage to the House of God.” So fasting has many levels. Many Muslims will physically fast during this period of time. On a more profound level, which we will elaborate in the future lectures, fasting has to also do with how we no longer feed our ego. It is a type of fast. We don't give our desires what they want. It is a type of discipline. “And make pilgrimage to the House of God.” This is the famous Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, which is a very beautiful symbolic teaching about the inner work which we will elaborate in future lectures.
“‘You have spoken the truth,’ he said again. ‘So tell me about doing what is beautiful (ihsan)?’ ‘Doing what is beautiful is to worship God as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, certainly He sees you.’ ‘You have spoken the truth,’ he said.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
In the beginning we don't see divinity. We don't know what the Being is. But even though we are clouded of mind, the heart is not polished firmly, clearly yet. Divinity sees all of our actions, our inner being. So acting beautifully is knowing that on some level there are consequences to what we do. This is ethics. And in this way, by developing ethical behavior, we calm the mind. We develop peace of heart. We establish ourselves for deeper states of serenity.
This is how we learn to bear witness, to give testimony of the truth, to experience, to know the unity of the divine. The unitary state of consciousness, which in Arabic is called tawhid.
“I heard Abu Hatim al-Sijistani say... that al-Jalajili al-Basri said, ‘For the testimony of unity (tawhid) to be in force, faith is prerequisite…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Meaning, if we have no experience, no faith, we can not really affirm the validity of any teaching. So we have to really test and validate and experiment with these principles to see what is true.
“‘…for whoever has no faith cannot testify to the unity. For faith to be in force the divine law is prerequisite, for whoever does not hold to the divine law has no faith and cannot testify to the unity.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We develop faith by experience, by enacting the causes that produce the state of meditation, of contemplation.
“‘For the divine law to be in force refined conduct is prerequisite, for whoever has not refined his conduct cannot hold to the divine law, has no faith, and cannot testify to the unity...’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So in synthesis, we prepare the practical foundations of meditation by developing our conduct. If we give in to desire, we can no longer perceive reality, but if we work on our own negative mental states, our own negative qualities of mind, we can in turn open up our psyche and our heart to know the truth.
Questions and Answers
Audience: Hi, I have a question regarding the word meditation. Would you be able to expound or break down the actual word or maybe the root word, and where the word comes from and what are the parts of the word? Because one of the things that I've been exploring are things like meditation involving a certain posture or the idea of meditation involving certain thoughts or certain practices, when often a state of meditation might be achieved looking at a tree or going for a walk. But then the question is, am meditating or am I moving nearer to meditation? My idea of meditation may not be at all that.
Instructor: Excellent question. In Arabic the word for meditation is mushahida, which relates to the term Shahadah, meaning declaration of faith, to bear witness of something. So meditation in it's proper sense is when we witness with clarity, with no condition of mind present, what the reality of a given situation is, or our own internal states. What is actually going on. Because meditation is, according to Samael Aun Weor in his writings, the state of acquiring information. And there are many levels and qualities of that type of introspection, of that witnessing.
Witnessing can be simply seeing in ourselves defect of anger—in a moment when which we are criticized, we are observing ourselves, being aware of ourselves, our surroundings and we see our quality of mind for what it is. Witnessing can also have to do with being aware of our surroundings as well. Being very vivid, very clear. So meditation is about being awake, acquiring data of our experiences. It's a quality that is very dynamic and there are many levels.
Some people have studied astral projection or dream yoga in which one is awake in the dream state. One is no longer in the physical body, but one is experiencing life in the internal worlds. That is a form of witnessing as well. A state of meditation. But the problem is that once we experience that state, even if it just for a moment, our own conditions of mind, our own egotism, pulls us out.
The way we learn to sustain those states is by again practicing meditation, going into ourselves, silencing our mind, relaxing, suspending our senses, looking inside of ourselves. Consciousness is very beautifully explained in many of the Sufi writings, which we are going to explore in this course, which can give you an idea of what those qualities and states are like. But the best teacher is always going to be your own practice. Examining your own mind and what qualities are objective and clear and what are not. Unfortunately, no one can really teach you that. That's something you have to really work within yourself. We can give you indicators and examples, but actually experiencing what that state is like is something very practical and personal.
Audience: Thank you for the presentation tonight. It was very helpful. You mentioned the fine example of a polished heart. It really made and impact on us here. The other thing is, in doing the practices, you also mentioned not to be mechanical. Wouldn’t the use of imagination, after preparing yourself, in the practices be essential and being able to perform them in a way that you can connect to divinity? This would also be carried on over to concentration and focusing and in our meditations.
Instructor: Absolutely. The term imagination is commonly called clairvoyance. For those who are not familiar with the teachings of conscious perception, imagination, it is the ability to perceive imagery that is not physical. And so whenever we do any practice, whether we are doing mantras or prayers and concentrating our minds, we open up our imagination to visualize and to perceive in our mind's eye the result of the goal we seek.
So imagination or perception, which is given the name clairvoyance, meaning “clear vision,” has to do with qualities of perceiving. When we do runes or any exercise of practice, any mantras, we learn to visualize in our mind energy flowing. Or we can visualize any figure within any tradition that truly inspires us, such as an image of the Virgin Mary or any of the Greek Gods. Imagination is essential to our practices. Meaning, to concentrate the mind is important in the beginning. We learn to concentrate ourselves by working in ethics, and once the waters of the mind and the heart are polished and refined and calm, that's when we can start to see things more clearly in us.
That is what the Sufis call witnessing. We learn to witness the truth when we are serene. We're not thinking. And in that exercise of runes or any type of practice that we do in this teaching, we first calm our mind and we visualize, we pray, we try to see in our consciousness any type of energy we are working with, or working with the Divine Mother in the sacred rites of rejuvenation. For those who are familiar, these are yoga postures that we perform along with prayer and visualization exercises. So we perform certain visualizations in which we ask for help from divinity in order to bring down healing energies in our body and our mind.
We have to see with our eyes closed what we are doing. If we're invoking or calling upon these forces, we have to learn to see them, to imagine them, to perceive them. And there are many levels through perception. So it's important that when we are meditating or silencing our mind or doing any type of prayer, we also imagine divinity in our consciousness and ask for help.
So of course imagination is very important. We will be talking more about that faculty as we advance in this course. We will hold a lecture about that topic specifically, but of course we want to see the prayer, relaxation, concentration, imagination. These are the factors that open up the doorway to experience. With the analogy we're providing, when the mind is calm or concentrated and relaxed in the state of prayer, we can start to perceive superior images, which don't come physically, but are internal and are something very dynamic.
Audience: I have a question regarding to the lecture. Throughout the lecture I kept thinking of a part of the Bible. I forgot the part of the Bible where it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I don't know why that thought kept presenting itself throughout the lecture. Is there something related to that? Because my understanding to that is, having the fear of the Lord is being able to understand good and evil. So is there a way that you can expand a little bit about that?
Instructor: So going back to the teaching of Shari’ah and ethics, we learn to be afraid of acting wrongly in order to obtain wisdom. Somebody who's not afraid of behaving poorly in any type of circumstance—not in the egotistical sense, but from the state of reverence of divinity—that person will not have any real development.
So that statement, "The beginning of the knowledge is fear of the Lord.” That fear in original Hebrew is pechad. It can also mean reverence or awe. The Sufis talk a lot about the awe of divinity and that we have to have awe and reverence for our inner being, especially when we are tested. Situations arise in which we are conflicted and we really have to feel that reference and awe of divinity, knowing that even though we don't see divinity, divinity sees us. And if we act on our mind, we will cause problems. So that is one level of that meaning.
The beginning of real Ma’rifah, witnessing of divinity, is that precise respect we have for our Being when we feel anger is about to emerge and it's about to take over, but we refrain from acting on that element. That's the beginning, but we go deeper in meditation and look to comprehend in even deeper roots what that emotion was about, and we look at the facts of that. But again, relating back to Shari’ah, ethical conduct is the beginning of knowledge. Without ethics, we can't really have experience or knowledge of divinity.
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